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Small Swedish Town’s Contribution to NHL Talent

LANDSBRO, Sweden

There are no signs for Landsbro on the long road from Stockholm. This village in southern Sweden is so remote, so small, I was told, I would pass it if I didn’t keep my head up. Not a single stop sign. Not a single red light. Small like that.

I was told to take the train from Stockholm if I planned to visit, but, I was cautioned, no train stopped in Landsbro. I would need a rental car to make the last leg of the journey. Why not drive the full four and a half hours instead, I thought? What better way to get a sense for how far out this place really was than by coasting southwest from the largest city in Sweden, with a population of 1.5 million, a place that hums with people and activity, to this quaint village of 1,500 people?

Trees practically swallowed the road as I zipped past farms and vast empty spaces, heading in the direction of nearby Vetlanda. It wasn’t until I was just outside of town that I came across any hint of Landsbro. There wasn’t a soul in sight as I passed a big white church, the only gas station around, and a barbershop that accepted walk-ins. Finally, after more than 200 miles, I came upon the place where the seeds for a historic NHL career were planted — though you would hardly know it. Nothing but the GPS told me I was in the right place.

Not until, that is, I pulled into the parking lot of the hockey arena. Scrawled in white paint out front were two reserved spaces for local royalty: One for the No. 93 of Johan Franzén, the first player to make it to the NHL from these parts. The other features the No. 65 of Erik Karlsson, one of the greatest players of his generation, a three-time Norris Trophy winner, 15 seasons, 966 games, 795 points, and one of the best Swedes, period, to play in the NHL.

The snow was starting to fall and darkness was creeping in as I waited for Erik’s younger brother, Pelle, to arrive and show me around. I had only one thought: How the heck did Karlsson make it all the way from here? It didn’t take me long to figure it out.


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