Örnsköldsvik, Sweden – the home of hockey greats like Peter Forsberg, Victor Hedman, Markus Naslund and the Sedins. Is it any surprise that the small Swedish town would be host to a few Canucks fans?
Jon Häggqvist may be a bit of an Avs fan thanks to Forsberg, but his love for the Canucks is growing due to the concentration of his home-town hockey players on the Vancouver roster.
“My greatest idol was Peter Forsberg and therefore the Avs was my favourite team growing up,” Jon admits. “But I always liked the Canucks too, and for the last six or seven years or so they have been growing on me, mostly because of Näslund and the twins, of course.”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m a die-hard fan yet, but I’m on my way.”
Well, at least he’s honest.
Jon is 27 and proud to be from Örnsköldsvik. Who wouldn’t be? He seems to be a pretty down-to-earth guy. He’s not superstitious and he doesn’t really have any game-day rituals aside from coffee drinking (let’s face it – it’s 4 a.m. there when a home game comes on, so coffee is a necessity).
And this is how he says Go Canucks Go in Swedish:
“Kom igen Canucks, kom igen!”
It sounds strange to our English ears, but if we in Vancouver can nail it, we can yell it at half the Canucks roster and they’d love it.
Not surprisingly, most of Jon’s favourite Canucks were, and are, Swedish, except for one Russian guy…
“I always fancied Pavel Bure,” Jon said. “He was so skilful and quick; a real force on the ice. He also had that kind of mystic aura that surrounds some players.”
“And then there was my hometown fellow Markus Näslund. He was such a star, but still one of the most humble hockey players I’ve ever met. The determination that took him from the press box to the Lester B. Pearson Award is truly inspiring.”
“Who is my favourite player is right now? I can’t choose between Daniel and Henrik…”
Don’t worry, Jon – most can’t.
Like our Scottish fan profiled in the first of these international fan profiles, Jon has to struggle with obscure early hours to catch the Canucks in action. I can’t imagine it’s very pleasant to get up that early 82+ times a year.
“It is a pain in the ass to be honest,” he said about 4 a.m. starts. “I have a job to take care of and of course a family too, so many nights I just can’t stay up. I try to watch the Canucks when they play on the east coast and the difference in time zones isn’t killing me… Sometimes when they play at home I go to bed early and put the alarm clock on 4 a.m. When I can’t watch them, I catch up and watch extended highlights when I wake up in the morning.”
Jon said bars are closed in Sweden during those hours, so there’s nowhere to go catch a game aside from on his computer while his family sleeps.
But for playoffs, he thinks he can round up some other hockey fans to watch.
“If it comes to very important playoff games, I think I will get together with some friends. A lot of people around here cheer for the Canucks.”
And who will Jon be watching closely in the playoffs? Surprisingly he’s not Swedish.
“I think Alex Burrows is gonna step up a couple of notches now when the games get tighter, making way for the Sedins and hopefully scoring at a faster pace than he has done lately. I also have hopes for Mikael Samuelsson to get things together for real after his injury. He knows what the playoffs are really about.”
In regards to Jon’s expectations of the Canucks in the postseason, can it be any surprise that he expects nothing but the best? Look where he’s from – a town of elite hockey players, some already with Stanley Cup rings.
“After their amazing season, the expectations can’t be other than extremely high. 54 wins can’t be a fluke, right? This has to be the year, and anything other than the Stanley Cup finals is a disappointment.”