Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 25

Johan Franzen makes a toast during his Stanley Cup party in Vetlanda, Sweden
Franzen makes a toast during his outdoor party. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
At training camp in September 2005, Detroit captain Steve Yzerman observed a newcomer working his tail off and tagged him 'The Mule.' That rookie was Johan Franzen, and although it was just prior to his first NHL season, he had been drafted in 2004 at the advanced age of 24, having been passed over six times in the NHL Entry Draft. The Mule had never scored more than 12 goals in a season while playing in Sweden with Linkopings. So how does a longshot join the NHL and during 2007-08, score 27 goals during the regular season and 13 more in just 16 playoff contests, including 28 goals in 29 games to conclude the season? "If I had an answer, we'd have two more just like him," laughs GM Ken Holland.

Johan Franzen works hard at all times, and his contributions to the Red Wings' successful season were praised by all his teammates. All the boys love 'The Mule.'

The Stanley Cup arrived in Vetlanda, Sweden at 10:00 on the morning of Friday, August 1. Johan arrived to get the Cup, having been in neighbouring Bjorkoby. The Cup was taken to the house he shares with girlfriend C.C., and was the centre of attention at an outdoor party for 100. Surrounding the Cup were tables of food, including fish, pork, roast beef, pasta salad and for dessert, a Red Wing cake, decorated in team colours by using raspberry and vanilla. Johan made a short speech, which was followed by a toast to his success. Each guest raised a glass of champagne with a strawberry in it and shouted, "Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!" Not being Swedish, we weren't certain whether the guests were lauding Franzen or describing the fish. No matter.

Franzen took the Cup to nearby Landsbro, and visited the school he attended as a boy. Lucky for young Johan, the school has a rink attached to it, so he was able to hone his abundant skills as a schoolboy.

Johan Franzen has his guitar fine tuned for his performance during his Stanley Cup party in Vetlanda, Sweden
Frazen aka "The Mule" has his guitar fine tuned for his performance. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Two thousand fans showed up to greet the Stanley Cup champion, and local dignitaries honoured his presence with the Stanley Cup as former coaches, family and friends smiled, looking on. After the official proceedings concluded, Franzen signed autographs and fans took pictures of the Stanley Cup.

But the honours hadn't concluded. At 4PM, Johan arrived in Vetlanda for another ceremony. Again, 2,000 residents squeezed into the town square to observe the hometown hero receive official accolades. Mirroring his time in Landsbro, Franzen again posed for photos with the Cup and signed autographs for fans.

Exhausted but excited, the winger was guest of honour that evening at a party at the Vetlanda Stadshotel. He and C.C. brought the Stanley Cup into the hotel, and were immediately surrounded by wall-to-wall people.

Described by close friends as tending to be a little shy, The Mule was anything but as the band took the stage at his party. He put the Stanley Cup on the stage and began to sing and play guitar with the musicians. At 1:00AM, Johan excused himself from the party. "Sorry guys, but I'm leaving tomorrow for a vacation to Greece, and I've got to go," he said, waving.

Clearly, this Mule gets his kicks!

* * *

On Tuesday, the Stanley Cup Journal will visit newly-engaged Henrik Zetterberg as well as Hakan Andersson, Detroit's outstanding European scout. You won't want to miss this one!

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

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