The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.
Tonight, the two most recent winners of the Viking Award — awarded annually to the best Swedish hockey player in North America — will take to the ice. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin (who won it in 2009-10) and Daniel Sedin (who won it last year) will face the Flames in Calgary, where fellow Swede Henrik Karlsson (who has never won it) will back up Miikka Kiprusoff in goal.
The Viking Award isn’t entirely unique. There are similar awards honoring different nationalities — the Kharlamov Trophy is awarded to the best Russian NHLer, the Golden Hockey Stick to the top Czech player — but the Viking Award is special. For one, it’s voted on by the players themselves.
And two, the annual competition is fierce. Mats Sundin is the only player to win it four times; Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Borje Salming have won it thrice.
What makes the award impressive, though, is the list of those that haven’t won it. Daniel Alfredsson, the third-leading Swedish scorer of all time, has never won it. Henrik Lundqvist, the winningest Swedish goalie of all time, has never won it. Michael Nylander, who scored 679 career points, has never won it. Tomas Holmstrom, Ulf Dahlen, Tommy Salo and Fredrik Olausson have never won it. It’s a tough one to get.
And this year, the Viking race is as tight as ever. The Sedins are making a strong push — they both have 13 points each through 11 games — while Nicklas Backstrom (who won in 2008-09) is lighting it up for the Capitals.
Yet there’s a new wave of Swedes making their marks. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen in points while Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog is one of the top rookie scorers. Marcus Johansson has five goals in eight games for Washington while Loui Eriksson and the surprising Alexander Steen lead all Swedes with six tallies each. Other players garnering consideration include Alex Edler, Johan Franzen, Tobias Enstrom and Jacob Markstrom.
Oh yeah, let’s not forget two-time winners Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg are also in the mix.
The Viking Award. Like I said earlier, it’s a tough one to get.