The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/07/12 at 12:06 AM ET
Ahead of a very busy day for the Red Wings’ participants at the World Championships—Kyle Quincey and Canada will tangle with France at 9:15 AM, Petr Mrazek probably won’t play in the Czechs’ tilt with Norway at 10:15 AM, but Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader will face off against Tomas Tatar when the U.S. and Slovakia battle at 1:15 PM (on the NBC Sports Network), and every Swede but Jonathan Ericsson (back/hip issue) is likely to take part in Sweden’s tilt against Denmark at 2:15 PM (all starts listed in Eastern Daylight Time)...
Something that could only happen in Europe happened at the Swedes’ hotel. With reporters absolutely jam-packed into the team’s rec room, some players engaged in a little table tennis, and as various players gave interviews to the press—and I can’t give you the best video for this as it’s “geo-blocked”—Marie Hallman captured an impromptu karaoke battle between Gabriel Landeskog and Victor Hedman (link goes to a Facebook video), and with no PR people around to tell the reporters—a gaggle from TV4, Hockeysverige, Aftonbladet, Expressen, SVT, you name it, they were all there—and as Hockeysverige.se’s Uffe Bodin notes, instead of slinking away, Gabriel Landeskog immediately took to Twitter and very happily ratted himself out...
As if it was no big deal, Niklas engaged in the following interview with Aftonbladet’s Tomas Ros and Las Wennerholm while hardly batting an eyelash as the press skittered toward Hedman (you probably won’t understand much of it)...
And Niklas and his brother Staffan told TV4’s Emil Andersson (the video doesn’t work outside Sweden, sorry) that Hedman sang his heart out because Staffan promised him dinner in exchange for a show!
Sometime afterward, Henrik Zetterberg talked to SVT’s Marie Lehmann (in Swedish, so I can’t do much with it) about something he’s stated repeatedly, and something that might grate on Mike Babcock’s nerves as the Wings’ coach engages in a little R&D, stating that the Wings employ a more defensively-oriented and slightly less offensively creative, safer style in the NHL. Babcock might want to take note of what Zetterberg first said on Friday to Svenska Dagbladet’s Jonas Arnesen:
“It’s always fun to play in the World Championship, and to do it at home is something special,” says “Zata,” who is also attracted to [team Sweden coach] Par Marts’ hockey philosophy.
“It’s a little more aggressive than I previously thought it would be.”
Can you explain what you mean?
“We have to take the imitative and go straight to the goal when we get inside the blueline, and it’s a little different, especially when coming from an environment where it becomes a hell of a life and you get to sit on the bench if you make a mistake.”
That’s really the only controversy I can give you from the Wings at the Worlds thus far, aside from the players’ consternation at high ticket prices yielding half-empty rinks in Stockholm and Helsinki.
Otherwise, especially on Sunday, the Swedish press reported that Team Sweden held an open practice at Hovet Arena (Zetterberg didn’t practice as he felt that he needed to rest up after two straight days of playing hockey, and Ericsson pronounced himself iffy for Monday’s game against Denmark, barring being able to take part in the Swedes’ morning skate), then signed autographs for fans for between 10-15 minutes, and decided that a crush of media members—media members who don’t get shooed out of players-only areas in the team hotel or locker rooms, reporters who hold informal chats with players and tend to cheer for the home team, like pundits used to do in North America until, somewhere in the 60’s or 70’s, it became the height of un-professionalism to dare to admit a rooting interest, or in the 80’s and 90’s, dare to engage in any sorts of interviews with players on informal bases, outside of scrums or post-practice availabilities (sometimes over lunch instead!)—wouldn’t get in their way of having a good time playing table tennis and singing karaoke.
Just another average day for a bunch of NHL’ers and European pros being followed around during their every move at some times and being totally left alone at others (most everybody on the Swedish and Finnish rosters is playing in front of friends or family, but we hear nary a peep regarding those interactions, as it should be), all in a digital media world, in a strangely casual and very un-North American environment.
It’s a different world over there, folks, and I’m not saying that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, because I’m sure players don’t like it when reporters who act buddy-buddy with you one moment are suddenly ripping you a new one after those casual chats if you make the kinds of mistakes that Zetterberg suggests would nail your ass to the bench…
But it is very, very different, and I think at least one post about the Wings at the Worlds needs to mention that the players are swimming in a very different media environment on the other side of the Atlantic.
Some players can’t hack it when things go south—one could very well argue that, for example, Wings prospect Dick Axelsson let negative comments directed toward him via Twitter or Facebook, nasty things said about him after being caught in public doing scandalous things like eating lunch, or facing the infamy that comes with your first profile picture posted in media guides, programs and attached to news reports with a double chin, all distracted the hell out of him, to the point that Axelsson’s career and eventual hopes of making the NHL might best be served by heading to Siberia to chase some petro-dollars and play among an audience that won’t constantly preoccupy him because they don’t speak Swedish…
But for other players, swimming in the digital world while engaging in the kinds of, “Sure, let’s go out to lunch” interviews that brought us the kind of access that, say, the delicate genius had in the 90’s—and, in this digital age, access that, in North America, anyway, we’re not likely to ever witness again—is an easily-dealt-with and welcome part of the job.
Good for them. I hope the Swedes, the Finns, and all the players and teams who are going above and beyond the call of duty by having engaged in a full NHL season, for most of them, very disappointing NHL playoff runs, and now taking their bumped, bruised and sore bodies (as I said earlier today, there’s no doubt that Pavel Datsyuk’s playing at less than full strength for Russia as his knee and some other owies he didn’t disclose to the media are clearly bothering him and limiting his effectiveness, but when the country calls and you’re Pavel Datsyuk, you make sure your NHL employer’s doctors don’t believe that you can do further damage to injuries that simply need rest to stop aching and you go and fulfill your patriotic duty) to a tournament where almost all of the players are playing in two of every three days between May 4th and 15th and might play in—if they end up going to medal rounds, anyway—seven “round robin” games and three more for a total of 10 games over 17 days…
Get to have some fun and receive a little break in the media pressure department, at least until the elimination rounds begin on the 17th. Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Kyle Quincey Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and prospects Petr Mrazek and Calle Jarnkrok are going above and beyond the call of duty, if you will, and while I know that athletes live to compete and play at the highest level they can, maybe there’s something to be said for the long-time Wings in particular (who are used to playing do-or-die games at this time of year) to end up going over to play in the Worlds and come out of the experience refreshed and renewed in terms of their enthusiasm for hockey—and their determination to not repeat this kind of patriotic endeavor on a yearly basis.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.