When you are 6,400 miles away from home, it’s nice to have a friend who is in the same time zone.
Tri-City Americans forward Malte Strömwall and Kelowna Rockets forward Henrik Nyberg live two hours apart back home in Sweden. In the Western Hockey League, they are separated by six hours and the Canadian border, but with Skype and four games against each other this season, they are able to stay in touch.
“We have a lot of Skype conversations,” Nyberg said. “Like two hours at a time. It’s nice to have him here.”
“He is a good friend. We talk a lot about our games,” said Strömwall, who noted their conversations are in Swedish.
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The friends will face each other tonight in Kelowna, British Columbia, as the Americans begin a three-game trek through the B.C. Division. Tri-City will play at Kamloops on Friday and at Vancouver on Saturday.
This is the third game between the Swedes. The Americans swept the Rockets on Nov. 16-17 at the Toyota Center.
“Malte is a skilled player,” Nyberg said. “He’s good on the power play and a good sniper too. These games (in Kennewick) weren’t that good for us. We just have to keep on going and play hard every game. We have a good team this year. We have four lines that can do it all.”
The Americans (16-8-1-1, 34 points) head into tonight’s game in fourth place in the Western Conference, while the Rockets (15-8-1-1, 32 points), who have won three in a row, are fifth.
Strömwall and Nyberg, both 18, have known each other for seven years and have been friends for three, playing against one another, and with each other in Sweden.
“We played in the Ivan Hlinka together last year before I came to Tri-City,” Strömwall said. They lost to Canada in the title game.
Strömwall, from Luleå (pop. 73,000), is in his second year in the league, Nyberg, a native of Stockholm, is a rookie.
“When I first came here, I asked him a couple of things, like how is it here and what the game is like,” said Nyberg, who was taken in the second round of this year’s CHL import draft. “I had plans to come here (WHL) when I got drafted by Kelowna. It was good that he had already been there and could help me. I really like Kelowna and the fans are really good.”
Strömwall was happy to give his friend the lay of the land in the WHL.
“He asked me about the league and how it worked,” Strömwall said. “I told him it was a good league and to take advantage of the opportunity. If he didn’t like it, he could go back home.”
While Strömwall has excelled on the ice this season (8 goals, 9 assists in 20 games), Nyberg (3 goals, 5 assists in 24 games) still is learning the North American game.
“He is still adjusting to the smaller rink and the style of play,” Strömwall said. “It’s always tough your first year until you learn everything.”
Strömwall also is friends with a few of the other Swedes in the WHL, including forward Victor Rask (Leksand) of the Calgary Hitmen and defenseman Albin Blomqvist (Osby) of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“I went through tryouts this summer for the Four Nations Tournament with Rask,” Strömwall said. “I played with Albin on the Linkoping U-18 team for a couple of years. We both made Sweden’s under 18 team last year, but I couldn’t go because we had playoffs. We are friends, but I don’t talk to them as much.”