Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 25

Mikael Samuelsson, girlfriend Sandra and their daughter Stina enjoy the company of the
Stanley Cup. (Walt Neubrand /HHOF)
Mikael Samuelsson settled into the 2007-08 season as a three-year veteran of the Detroit Red Wings, having earlier been a member of the Sharks, Rangers, Penguins and Panthers organizations. Detroit is a comfortable fit for the big Swedish winger, who joined teammates Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg as members of the exclusive Triple Gold Club — recipients of a gold medal at the Olympics (with Sweden in 2006), a gold medal at the World Championship (again, with Sweden in 2006) and now, a Stanley Cup championship.

Born in Mariefred, Sweden, a small town 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Stockholm, Samuelsson now makes his summer home in Nykvarn, a community that was part of Sodertalje until 1999. The Stanley Cup arrived in Nykvarn at 9AM on Tuesday, July 29, and Mikael, girlfriend Sandra and children William and Stina, had their portraits taken professionally with the Stanley Cup.

Samuelsson decided to visit one of his friends and surprise him with the Stanley Cup. But it just so happens that the friend, Mats Hallin, was a Stanley Cup champion with the New York Islanders in 1983. Back then, teams didn't get the opportunity to share the Cup with the players for a day — that tradition began a decade later — so Hallin had never really spent any time with the trophy that bears his name.

Former New York Islander Cup champion Mats Hallin shows off his hockey hardware with the Stanley Cup. (Walt Neubrand /HHOF)
Hallin was in the midst of building a new house when Mikael drove up, carried the Stanley Cup from the car to the skeleton of what will be a wonderful home, and shouted, "Hey Mats, look what I've got for you!"

The five-year NHL veteran almost fell off the ladder in astonishment. Hurrying down to greet Samuelsson, Hallin got very emotional. "Look," he said in a shaky voice, pointing to his arms, "I have goosebumps!" Everyone on the site stopped their work and a spontaneous party erupted. Mats brought out snacks and beer, along with photos from his NHL career and the miniature Stanley Cup he was awarded as being part of the Islanders win in 1983.

After profuse thanks from Hallin, Samuelsson left with the Stanley Cup and decided to have lunch in Sodertalje at La Pizza di Memo. As Mikael was entering the restaurant, Memo, the owner, shouted, "Hey Sammy, what have you got?!?" Mikael just grinned, brushing past the autographed photos that adorn the walls, and placed the Cup on a table. "I had to come to the place with the best food in town," he laughed. Memo and his staff then made pizza and pasta for Samuelsson and his party.

On his way to a civic reception in Mariefred, Mikael stopped at the local arena, but finding no one there, continued on to his hometown. Three thousand fans crowded the town square to greet the Red Wings' winger. An official presentation from the town honoured Samuelsson, who then signed autographs for many in attendance.

Afterwards, Mikael took the Cup back to Nykvarn and a party for about 140 friends and family commenced at the Nykvarn Golf Club. The menu included barbecued chicken, beef and fish as well as corn on the cob and assorted vegetables. Kids gobbled up hotdogs. Former NHLers Mats Hallin and Bert Robertsson were there to celebrate with Mikael.

Following a champagne toast, Pigghaj, a local band loved by Mikael, kicked up the tempo of the party, and not long afterwards, had celebrants dancing around the Stanley Cup.

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Andreas and Lotta Lilja look on as their 9-month-old daughter Maya is baptized with the assistance of a unique cup. (Bill Wellman/HHOF)
The next day (Wednesday, July 30), the Stanley Cup was in possession of Andreas Lilja, Detroit's big defenceman. Hockey's greatest trophy was flown into Helsingborg, where it was greeted at 8AM by Andreas, his wife Lotta and their children Tilda and Maya.

Helsingborg is a historic city in the southern part of Sweden, and is that country's closest point to Denmark. Andreas is very much a history buff, and regaled all those within earshot of tales of Scandic battles with the Danes.

The Liljas picked up the Cup in their Hummer and drove to a local rink, where a team of local youngsters eagerly had their picture taken with the Stanley Cup.

Arriving at their home, the family dressed for a very special occasion. Andreas and Lotta were having their children baptized, using the Stanley Cup as the font that held the Holy Water. The ceremony, held on the patio of the family home, was witnessed by 75 family members and close friends, who looked on as 5-year-old Tilda and 9-month-old Maya were baptized. Afterwards, Andreas hosted a party, where guests enjoyed fish, shrimp, pasta salad and wildberry mousse.

Lilja and Stanley take in the view from the
Karnan Tower. (Bill Wellman/HHOF)
Lilja next took the Stanley Cup over to the local sports hall of fame, where a huge crowd had gathered, and signed autographs and allowed fans to take pictures of the hockey chalice. Andreas was inducted into the sports hall of fame in 2002.

As mentioned, Andreas loves the history of the region, and took the Stanley Cup to several of the historic sites located within Helsingborg. There is no landmark more recognized in the city than the 600-year-old Karnan Tower. It is the remains of a castle built in Helsingborg during the Middle Ages, but in 1676, most of the castle was laid ruin, but the tower remained and has become an exceptionally popular local landmark.

The Karnan Tower is 34 metres (111.5 feet) tall, and 147 steps take visitors from the ground to the top, where a breathtaking panoramic view awaits. Now, a professional athlete has no trouble with 147 steps, but carrying the 34.5 pound (15.6 kilogram) Stanley Cup at the same time was a different matter. "I may never get to do this again," exclaimed Lilja. "Let's go!" But halfway up the tower, Andreas turned to the Keeper of the Cup and, thrusting the trophy towards him, suggested it was someone else's turn to carry the trophy. As it turned out, Andreas did take the Stanley Cup to the top of the Karnan Tower on his own. There, he had some incredible photos taken looking out over both the city and the sea.

In the latter part of the afternoon, Lilja took the Cup to the Tivoli Club, where a press conference was held at which Andreas was presented with a wooden horse painted in the red and white of the Red Wings. He also received some custom-made clogs with his name written in designer script. He then signed autographs and allowed fans to take pictures with the Stanley Cup.

Returning home, the evening held one more Stanley Cup celebration party. 150 guests, including former NHL defenceman Kenny Jonsson as well as the Swedish Women's National Hockey Team, joined Andreas and Lotta for a wonderful house party that featured lamb, beef, pork, scalloped potatoes and pasta salad.

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Mattias Ritola (left) and Jonathan Ericsson (right) join with the Stanley Cup. (Bill Wellman/HHOF)
Rookie Mattias Ritola played just two games with Detroit during the 2007-08 season, but is one of the many faces that will provide a future to the Detroit franchise. Ritola, who was at his home, drove to his agent's office to receive the Stanley Cup on Thursday, July 31 and took the trophy across the street for a burger. He was met there by Jonathan Ericsson, another Red Wing rookie (Ericsson played 8 games with the Wings in 2007-08). Ericsson, who has the somewhat ignominious distinction of being the very final draft pick (291st) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, appears also have a bright future with the club, and picked up the Stanley Cup in a rented Viper, driving it to the arena in Sodertalje where he played his minor hockey. Jonathan and the Cup were paraded into the rink, greeted by hundreds of fans. He signed autographs and had photographs taken with the Stanley Cup. Following the sharing of the Cup with fans, Ericsson took Lord Stanley's legacy to his home, where a party of fifty helped the young defenceman celebrate his team's victory.

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In Friday's Stanley Cup Journal, you'll read how Johan Franzen spent his day with hockey's greatest prize.

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

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