The Grande Prairie Storm will be in for a very tough test when they host the Malmo Redhawks in the Canada Games Arena on Wednesday, December 29th at 7 PM in the Peak Energy International Experience.
The Malmo Redhawks Junior organization has been one of the top junior programs in Sweden over the last 15 years and has provided the Swedish Elite League with many players.
"We have been a top team in Sweden with our Junior 20 and played two finals and two semifinals in the last 10 years," said Malmo coach/general manager Roger Ohman, who played pro in North America with the Moncton Hawks of the American Hockey League in 1987-88 after being selected 39th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1985 National Hockey League draft.
"We have a great team this year and have five players on our team that have played for the Swedish National Junior Team - three (born 1992) and two (born 1993)." The players who have played on one of the national teams are goalie Fabian Sivnert; defenceman Viktor Mångs; and forwards Sebastian Dyk, Roger Olsson and Patrick Westerholm.
"Our junior program has developed a lot of great hockey players who have and are playing overseas," said Ohman.
One of the best known to Peace Country hockey fans would be Magnus Pajaarvi-Svensson of the Edmonton Oilers, who was a top 10 draft pick in the National Hockey League in 2009.
He played the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons with Malmo before joining the Swedish elite league.
Two other former Malmo players were first round selections in the NHL draft. Jesper Mattsson was chosen by the Calgary Flames and Marcus Johansson was picked by the Washington Capitals.
Other NHL draft choices who were at one time part of the Malmo team include:
- Andreas Liljja - Los Angeles Kings, Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings
- Kim Johnsson - New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.
- Frans Nielsen - New York Islanders
- Carl Soderberg - St. Louis Blues
- Andreas Thuresson - Nashville Predators
- Patrick Hersley - Los Angeles Kings
- Gustav Nyquist - Detroit Red Wings
Nyquist was also a finalist for the 2009-2010 Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the best collegiate hockey player in the United States. He led the NCAA in points last year.
As the official sponsor of the game, Peak Energy is thrilled to be able to participate. '"We at Peak Energy Services are extremely pleased and honored to be hosting the Peak Energy International Experience," said Senior Branch Manager Marty Herron. "As a Storm sponsor, season ticket holders and supporters of the Grande Prairie community, we are very excited to sponsor this standard of international hockey. In the spirit of sportsmanship and elite competition, we wish good luck to all participants and welcome our Swedish guests to the city of Grande Prairie!"
Storm Coach / GM knows his team is going to be in for a tough test against the Redhawks. "The game against the Malmo Redhawks is a very special opportunity for our players as well as the hockey fans of Grande Prairie," said Mike Vandekamp. "The Redhawks are one of the top Junior Teams in all of Sweden. They have developed many of the future stars who have come out of Sweden. It will be a tough test for our players and a very entertaining game for the fans."
Cost for all seats is $15 prior to December 29 and $17 on game day.
The game on Dec. 29 is part of a double header Christmas holiday package the Storm is offering. On Thursday, Dec. 30 the Storm host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in a regular season Alberta Junior Hockey League game at 7 p.m. Fans can purchase both the game against Malmo and the Oil Barons game for just $27 for adult seats, $24 for seniors and students and $20 for children.
"The game against Sweden and the doubleheader would make a great stocking stuffer," said Storm business manager Don Moon. "That's pretty reasonable. You could see two of the best Junior A teams in Canada and one of the best junior teams in Sweden for only $27 over two nights."
The game against Malmo will be the first for the Storm against an international team since the 1999-2000 season when they hosted a national junior team from Slovakia.
"It's not every day we get such a special opportunity here in Grande Prairie so hopefully we will get a very large crowd out to support our local boys as they do their best to represent the country of Canada and the City of Grande Prairie," said Vandekamp."
Tickets for the Dec. 29 game vs. Malmo and the special doubleheader package (Malmo game and Fort McMurray Oil Barons game) are on sale at the Crystal Centre Box Office.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)