Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2010, 22

The Stanley Cup arrives at the Gothenburg airport and is greeted by Niklas Hjalmarsson
The Stanley Cup arrives at the Gothenburg airport and is greeted by Niklas Hjalmarsson.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Swedish defender with the great wingspan proved, very quickly, to be a valuable component in Chicago's drive to the Stanley Cup this season. In only his first full NHL season, Niklas Hjalmarsson went from 'Who?' to 'Wow!'

The Stanley Cup arrived at the airport in Gothenburg, Sweden on the afternoon of Monday, August 9. With Niklas squeezed into the car with the Cup, they drove first to a party in his girlfriend's hometown near Nassjo. The hamlet where the party took place is very small — in fact, apparently 'Welcome' and 'Come Back Soon' are back-to-back on the same sign post.

Down a dirt road, the car stopped at a cluster of four houses, one of which is the home of the parents of Niklas's girlfriend. There, very close friends and family gathered to celebrate Hjalmarsson's victory. As he rounded the corner of the house, the Cup hoisted high above his head, he was stunned to see many of the guys he had played hockey with waiting on his arrival. Niklas was very emotional, and later, when asked to speak during dinner, was unable to do so.

Niklas Hjalmarsson  and some of his former teammates getting their picture taken with Lord Stanley
Niklas Hjalmarsson and some of his former teammates getting their picture taken with Lord Stanley.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The meal was wonderful, and included a sensational and traditional Swedish cake, as well as one shaped like the Stanley Cup.

The next morning, Hjalmarsson took the trophy to his hometown of Russnas, an equally small village of but 90 residents in a farming community not far away. "My town has 90 people," Niklas said. "They watch my games at 2:00 in the morning, then go milk the cows at 5:00."

As the car neared the village, it was greeted by a beautiful large sign that featured a picture of the local boy made good with a message of thanks that read: Grattis Niklas!

Niklas Hjalmarsson speaks to the crowd during his day with the Stanley Cup in Russnas, Sweden.
Niklas Hjalmarsson speaks to the crowd during his day with the Stanley Cup in Russnas, Sweden. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)



Niklas's father, who didn't learn English until his son moved to Chicago, was born in the house next door to where the family now lives. In fact, there aren't many in the town who aren't related — good, healthy, hard-working stock.

Pictures were taken with family and friends in the barn and around the farm, and then Niklas took the Stanley Cup to a field at the end of the street for a marvellous grassroots celebration unlike any enjoyed yet this summer. Hay bales were placed around the field with sheepskin provided for friends on which to sit more comfortably. Most of the 500 who showed up, coming from all parts nearby, brought their own picnic lunch, although there were hotdogs ready for those who needed lunch. Children screamed with delight as they teeter-tottered back and forth, or seemingly touched the sky as they swung high above the heads of those attending the celebration.

A sign featuring a picture of Niklas Hjalmarsson thanking him for bringing the Stanley Cup to Russnas
A sign featuring a picture of Niklas Hjalmarsson thanking him for bringing the Stanley Cup to Russnas.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Skill competitions were also part of the fun. Visitors could fire shots on a mannequin goalie, complete with full equipment, or take a turn in the axe-throwing competition. Most ran for cover when the Keeper of the Cup was encouraged to take a turn, but to the shock of all (especially him!), his axe left his fingertips and hit the bull's-eye!

Niklas took the Cup to the larger neighbouring town of Eksjo, stopping at the rink where he had begun his own hockey journey. The kids enrolled in minor hockey there flocked to meet Niklas and get a look at the famous Stanley Cup.

A parade was staged in Hjalmarsson's honour, consisting of the hockey-playing youngsters as well as marching bands and convertibles that carried Niklas and the Cup as well as other dignitaries. Arriving in the town square of Eksjo, some 3,000 gathered to honour their own hockey hero. Speeches were made and Niklas was presented with the key to the city. Several songs were sung, with Niklas belting out the lyrics to all of them, and then the well-known Blackhawks' theme was played — 'Chelsea Dagger' by The Fratellis -- eliciting great cheers from the crowd.


The Stanley Cup looks on as Niklas Hjalmarsson answers questions after taking Lord Stanley to the town of Eksjo where he played minor hockey   The Stanley Cup looks on as Niklas Hjalmarsson answers questions during his day with the Stanley Cup in Russnas, Sweden.
The Stanley Cup looks on as Niklas Hjalmarsson answers questions after taking Lord Stanley to the town of Eksjo where he played minor hockey.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
  The Stanley Cup looks on as Niklas Hjalmarsson answers questions during his day with the
Stanley Cup in Russnas, Sweden.
(Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame)

Niklas plans to build a home there one day, but in the meantime, he will continue to be a stalwart on the Hawks' blueline. He simply loves the community, and the community equally adores him. As the Stanley Cup left Niklas for its next destination, on to Finland, Hjalmalrsson stayed and signed autographs for every single person who had taken the time to come out to meet him with his new friend, Stanley.

* * *

The Stanley Cup's summer tour takes us next to Finland, where we'll party with Antti Niemi, one of the heroes of the Hawks' victorious spring. See you on Friday!

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.



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