STOCKHOLM — The Wild's Joel Eriksson Ek was a kid when the Detroit Red Wings, led at the time by Swedish stars Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, descended on Eriksson Ek's hometown of Karlstad and faced off against Färjestad BK in a preseason game.
"They had a great team," Eriksson Ek said. "A lot of Swedes showed up there. It was pretty fun to see those guys play."
Fast forward 14 years later, and Eriksson Ek is on the other side of that experience, now the NHLer coming back home to compete.
"He sees a little bit what it takes," Joakim Bjurback said of his 12-year-old son Sixten, a hockey player who made the approximately 250-mile trek to Stockholm with his dad from Gislaved, Sweden.
The Wild don't kick off their doubleheader in Stockholm until Saturday when they're the away team vs. Ottawa before "hosting" Toronto on Sunday, but the NHL Global Series is already in full swing.
Detroit and Ottawa squared off on Thursday at Avicii Arena and hours before puck drop, fans wearing gear from all four squads had invaded Kungsträdgården park in Stockholm.
That's where the league anchored its fan tour for the week, setting up activities for the public like accuracy shooting and hardest shot drills, a stickhandling challenge and — of course — bubble hockey. There was also an outdoor rink and a viewing party screen, and the Stanley Cup was on display.
"We took a picture with the Cup," said Leah Neidecker, a New Ulm native who was in Stockholm with her boyfriend. "I already sent it to my family. Very jealous."
The two had been planning to go to Sweden since July, a combination birthday and anniversary gift for Neidecker, and they'll be at both Wild games.
"We are excited," said Neidecker, who lives in Chicago. "Not bandwagon fans, so winning or losing we're here for the Wild."
Brian Guimont and his wife Jill, from Minneapolis, planned to attend all four games in the Global Series.
Trips like these aren't uncommon for the couple; they're at the Frozen Four almost every year.
"Just been a huge Wild fan," said Guimont, who had season tickets for nine years, "and thought if they ever did something like this — because I've seen it done years before — that I would do it. So as soon as I saw it was happening, I went on Swedish Ticketmaster and bought the seats."
Jaime Novak and her boyfriend, Zach Hansen, were in Stockholm as part of the Wild's fan tour package that started in Finland; so were Jana Lee and her husband Chris, the two meeting Novak and Hansen through the tour.
After taking a ferry from Finland to Stockholm, the group took in Wild practice on Wednesday at Hovet Arena and met the team.
"I would definitely do this again," said Novak, who lives in Amery, Wisconsin.
Friends Ed Wolff and Jon Rotz along with Hoon and Kathy Ge arrived in Stockholm from Maple Grove on Tuesday night.
Already, they've been to the Vasa Museum, which houses a 17th-century warship, and ABBA The Museum, which drew positive reviews.
As for what they're expecting at the Wild games, "Hopefully a win," Kathy Ge said.