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Marco Kasper’s goal, scenes from Ängelholm


ÄNGELHOLM, Sweden – They call it the Skåne Derby. Rögle and Malmö are two hockey clubs based in Sweden’s southernmost county and, in short, they hate each other.

Ängelholm, home of Rögle, is a small town, but passionate about its hockey club. On a game day, even hours before the game, you’ll see the club’s striking green scarves draped around people driving through town and driving past, at hotel windows and bars. That was certainly the case on Saturday, at least, with their rival in town and the buzz palpable.

I was unaware of this rivalry when I booked a trip to see two of the Red Wings’ top prospects, Marco Kasper and William Wallinder, play last week. But it didn’t take me long to realize how important rivalry was to these programs. When I met Kasper on my first day in town, he joked, “I shouldn’t lose this game because we might have to stay home the next day.”

He was joking, of course, but the rivalry is very real. When I told the team’s venerable equipment manager, Frederik “Fidde” Andersen, that I would be staying for the Saturday night showdown, he simply said, “So you’re going to see some rock and roll here.”

As I learned last year, when I visited Sweden for the first time, the atmosphere of the SHL is totally different from that of the NHL. Fan culture in the region includes those ubiquitous scarves, club-specific songs and constant in-game chanting.

But for a derby like this, the energy reaches a whole new level. In a bathroom on Saturday I spotted a piece of paper with a Malmö logo in the urinal – and it was right in the bathroom.

Thing is, it was an exceptional environment – even though Malmö are the last club in the SHL, the league’s relegation structure meant they had as much at stake as Rögle. And you never really know how a young player will react to such conditions until you see for yourself.

However, just two minutes after the face-off, Kasper crossed the neutral zone, stayed inside, then collected a through pass from teammate Riley Sheen and coolly dropped it under the bar for the first. goal of the game.

In hindsight, perhaps that was no surprise. When the two clubs played in late November, Kasper had two points, including game winner with just over five minutes remaining. But with his side suffering a tough loss earlier in the week – which included a forgettable performance from himself, individually – Kasper stepped into the spotlight in spectacular fashion.

“First shot on goal, good jump – I think he was playing a lot of pace in his game tonight,” Rögle coach Cam Abbott said afterwards.

Overall, Abbott wasn’t too thrilled with his team’s performance in the rivalry game, despite a 2-1 shootout victory. He’ll take both points, of course, but added, “None of our lines really connected, so he played with the puck a lot too, defensively.” He has further strengthened in different situations this year.

In this one, he led all of Rögle’s forwards playing almost 21 minutes. It’s a testament to the confidence he’s gained this year as an 18-year-old in a tough professional league. Meanwhile, Rögle’s ice time leader was Wallinder, the Red Wings other top prospect practicing his trade in Ängelholm. Wallinder didn’t end up on the scoresheet in Saturday’s game, but he showed many of the things that have pushed his stock soaring this season.

When the Red Wings drafted him, he was a big pile of crude tools. Now he looks like a pro – with his excellent skating and quick hands still present in his 6ft 4in frame, but with a growing understanding of how to take what’s given, too. Like Kasper, he had some unforgettable moments when the club lost on Thursday. But under the bright lights on Saturday it held steady and also showed sizzle in flashes.

Rögle fans celebrate a win over rival Malmö at the Catena Arena in Ängelholm, Sweden. (Allison Farrand / For Athletics)

I’ll have plenty more on both prospects in the coming weeks, having spent the week learning more about them and their games. But the bottom line: Kasper, Detroit’s 2022 first-round pick, and Wallinder, a 2020 second-round pick, are both on track to become the Red Wings after their time with Rögle.

If the club’s name sounds familiar, by the way, that’s because that’s where Moritz Seider came for his final year of pre-NHL seasoning during the pandemic. And as much to say that he left a great impression here.

While in town, however, I had to solve a little mystery that’s been in my head for nearly two years. Before Seider made his debut, I wrote a story about his year at Rögle, where his combination of crisp shots and highly effective two-way play helped Rögle reach the SHL Finals. And while reporting it, several of his teammates recalled Seider keeping a jar of candy in his locker – supposedly so he wouldn’t eat it all himself.

But all the details were difficult to pin down. I never got the name of the store, and couldn’t quite conceptualize what a candy jar meant – I even called it a “jar” at one point in history.

Naturally, I had to try to find out more. And since Ängelholm is a rather small town, it only took me a day. On the town’s central street is Hemmakväll, a candy store which, true to the description, was lined wall to wall with loose candies. Gorgeous candies too – bright colors, all kinds of flavors and huge. And right at the entrance? A shelf of bins – think of the kind of popcorn you get popcorn in a movie theater – of all sizes. This had to be the place.

A week of watching Red Wings hopes in Sweden: Marco Kasper's goal, scenes from Ängelholm

My candy bucket…for research. (Allison Farrand / For Athletics)

I grabbed the smallest jar they offered and filled it to the brim with all kinds of candies that we don’t even have (to my knowledge, at least) in the US. And the readers, it was amazing. I’m not sure exactly how many candies I put in that bucket, but even for the smallest size, it’s more than I felt good consuming in a week. But it’s hard to stop once you start. Needless to say, the whole candy jar story now makes perfect sense to me.

There was also another curiosity I had to investigate – although this one I didn’t know about until I arrived here.

Ängelholm is on the sea, and between the shore and the Catena Arena in Rögle is a clearing in the woods with a stone monument to an alleged flying saucer. Legend has it that a man named Gösta Carlsson saw a UFO land here in 1946.

A week of watching Red Wings hopes in Sweden: Marco Kasper's goal, scenes from Ängelholm

The UFO monument at Ängelholm. (Max Bultman / The Athletic)

Believe it or not, Carlsson went on to found a company that used purified pollen extracts for medicinal purposes – said to have been inspired by extraterrestrials – which earned him the nickname “Pollenkungen” or “the Pollen King”. . And with that wealth, he helped elevate Rögle’s stature in the 1960s. It made the monument well worth a hike on a chilly winter morning, hours before the derby game started.

The thing is, there was a lot to see over the last six days in Sweden, both on and off the ice. And I’ll have a lot more to share about Kasper, Wallinder and others soon.

In the meantime, however, I have to find a way out by spending a bucket of candy.

(Top photo by Marco Kasper: Allison Farrand/For Athleticism)

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