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Canucks Legend Näslund Remembers the Queen; Via Sweden

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Vancouver Canucks, Markus Naslund
Former Canucks captain Markus Naslund.

Long before his Canucks number-19 was hoisted to the rafters in Vancouver, Markus Näslund had a rare opportunity as captain of the club that will never be duplicated. With the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, the repercussions of her passing were felt around the planet, even in Sweden, even for a former Vancouver Canucks hockey player.

It was Naslund who took the ceremonial faceoff before an exhibition game on October 6th, 2002 against Mike Ricci of the San Jose Sharks. Naslund’s memories of the event made it into a Swedish newspaper article on Thursday, written by Johan Eriksson for Expressen.

The whole world mourns Queen Elizabeth. A 49-year-old hockey legend sits in Örnsköldsvik and remembers his unique meeting with the regent, when the queen talked hockey with the Canucks captain.

“I laughed and tried to answer something polite,” says Markus Näslund.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, already three years retired, accompanied the Queen on to the ice. Eriksson continues with the story, including Q and A with Naslund:

The entire proceedings, with Wayne Gretzky and Cassie Campbell – their leading women’s hockey player at the time – and Howie Meeker, who played the last time when she was (at a) hockey match, were in attendance. The Queen came out onto the ice on a rolled-out red carpet with Gretzky to participate in a ceremonial drawing. For Näslund & Co, there was a lot to keep track of.

“We had a long preparation just to find out how we should act, we were told that we were not allowed to ride (skate) in a straight line towards her, for example. And we weren’t allowed to say anything to her unless she addressed us first.

“I gave her the puck and she then told me that the last game she had been to was in Toronto, fifty years earlier or whatever, so it was awesome.”

Do you remember what you answered? –

“Well, I laughed enough and tried to answer something polite, I don’t really remember.”

It must have been a special meeting? Not many Swedish hockey players have met the world’s most famous royalty.

“Yes, of course it is.”

And that you have the pictures, where you are standing next to her with Gretzky in the background… these are great memories in retrospect.

Eriksson goes on to explain the fact that Queen Elizabeth had plenty of questions for Gretzky while watching the first period of the game, departed prior to the start of the second period, and indicated that she planned to watch the rest of the match on TV when she and Prince Philip retired for the evening.

Two decades ago.

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