Johan Garpenlov: Play and Demeanor Influenced Generations of Swedish Red Wings

Garpenlov had a successful rookie season notching 40 points (18-22—40) in 71 games.

Though his ice time was limited during his second season, Garpenlov did mentor another Swedish player, rookie defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

“He (Garpenlov) came the year before me, him and Sergei came the same year,” Lidstrom said. “Not knowing anything about the Detroit area or where to live or knowing my way around, Garpy, like we called him, really helped with everything finding a place to live to leasing cars to all the little things you don’t think about in life except playing hockey. He was very helpful early on for me, he took me under his wing and really helped me out to get me situated in Detroit.

“Garpy was really helpful my first year. That’s what I had to do with Homer (Tomas Holmstrom). It took Homer longer though, but that’s what I did with Homer.”

Lidstrom mentioning Holmstrom goes back to Holmstrom always telling people Garpenlov taught Lidstrom how to balance a checkbook, how to grocery shop and how to sign a lease, which Garpenlov denies.

“If a Swede plays on a team and a new Swede comes to the team, you try to help him as much as you can. I tried to help him as much as I could but Nick is a really smart guy and he can handle himself,” Garpenlov said. “Like I got help from Shawn Burr when I came over with everything, with cars and banks and driver’s license and all that, so I tried to help Nick with that if I could.

“But he could handle himself. He was a really easy Swedish player to help. Then at that time too we had Brad McCrimmon was playing on the team, so he helped him a lot, too. We lived close by each other so it was easy.”

Whether it was easy or not, it has long been accepted that Garpenlov’s mentoring became the guide for every Swedish Red Wings player who needed to become acclimated to everyday life in North America, something the modest Garpenlov downplays. He is more appreciative of what the Red Wings have done for him and his fellow Swedish hockey players.

“First of all, I got to play my first NHL game in Detroit and they believed in me so I’m really thankful to the organization,” Garpenlov said. “Coming to a team with that history with Gordie Howe and all the players who they retired in the roof there, you can feel that in the dressing room. My wife and I, we had two years there and we really enjoyed living there and I enjoyed playing there.

“What I like about the Detroit organization is they believed in Swedish players and they thought they could do well for them. They could play so well they can win the championship there. Nick and Homer and all the Swedes who played on that team proved they could. I really liked that.

“Detroit in Sweden is one of these teams I believe lots of young players want to play for because Nick played there and all these good Swedish players played there and they know they like the Swedish players. They’re really popular in Sweden, Detroit.”


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