Penguins in Europe: Stockholm museum fascinates players

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- You knew it was coming, just as soon as Tobias Kumlin, event manager of the Vasa Museum, told the Penguins players during a tour yesterday that only kings and presidents are allowed inside the old ship that is the main attraction of the tourist spot.

"We have Sidney Crosby."

"Can Sidney Crosby go on board?"

Winger Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Hal Gill were so quick to offer up the team captain for a little ribbing that it was impossible to tell who said what.

Apparently, Crosby's status as a recent recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia in his home province in Canada didn't rate him quite highly enough on this side of the Atlantic Ocean to be invited aboard the Vasa, but he and the rest of the Penguins got a good look at the outside of the ornate 17th-century wooden vessel.

With jet lag still an issue for some team members and the quiet, lowly lit atmosphere of the museum, there weren't a lot of shenanigans. The players showed a good deal of interest in the ship.

They checked out related displays, including re-creations of different areas of the ship as they might have looked, and listened to Kumlin's tales of the tough lives of seamen, about a third of whom died during voyages at the time of the Vasa.

"It's history. It's always neat to look back and learn about stuff like this," defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "It's quite impressive.

"We didn't know what type of museum it was. It was very interesting. You build these as kids, the models. The amazing thing is the detail back when they built this."

The Vasa was commissioned by a Swedish king during a time when this country was at war with three nations.

She was launched in 1628 -- and sank less than a mile into her maiden voyage when she listed and took on too much water through open gun ports on the lower deck.

More than 300 years later, in the mid-1900s, the Vasa was raised, remarkably intact, including wood carvings from stern to bow. The museum was built as a housing to display her. Kumlin said more than 1 million people a year visit.

That number now includes the Penguins, who are in Sweden as part of the NHL Premiere. They will open the regular season Saturday and Sunday with games against the Ottawa Senators but are getting a flavor of Europe while going through their final week of preseason workouts.

After practice at Hovet Arena and lunch at the museum restaurant, the players and staff took their tours of about 45 minutes. No one lingered and the group headed back to the team hotel for some rest.

Center Evgeni Malkin was a little less than enthused at the start of the tour because he was tired, but his interest quickly picked up. He took some photos with his cell phone and, afterward, was able to recite some of the information Kumlin provided.

"I liked it," Malkin said.

The trip to the Vasa Museum is one of two team outings planned for the team, along with a couple of team dinners.

Frank Buonomo, the team's senior director of team services and communications, went to Sweden over the summer on a scouting mission in advance of the team's trip. He settled on the museum as a good place to go because of its popularity and the fact it incorporates the culture and history of this area.

Today, the Penguins will get a wide-reaching, close look at modern Stockholm when they break into groups for a scavenger hunt across the city.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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