Hedman and Stralman on their relationship and playing for Team Sweden

The Tampa Bay Lightning's best defensive pairing talk about their relationship on and off the ice and what it means to represent their country.

Tampa Bay Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman were recently interviewed about their relationship and their roles on Team Sweden at the IIHF World Championship. Text of the original interview can be found at Hockeysverige.se.

This Swedish-to-English translation was generously provided by reddit user /u/Hedmaniac and edited by /u/elgrandeslimbo. If you use this translation in any context, please credit the translators.

Soccer geeks who give Tre Kronor hopes for gold

“We are going to win the last match of the tournament.”

They have chemistry both on and off the ice. At least as long as soccer doesn’t get too involved. Then the arguments can get heated between the two buddies Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.

Hockeysverige.se sat down with the Tampa Bay Lightning stars before the start of the World Championships to talk about their relationship, the tournament in Köln, and the rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool.

“You’d wish there was more heat,” says Stralman.

Victor Hedman joined the Tampa Bay Lightning straight from Modo in 2009. Anton Stralman got there when his contract expired in 2014 in New York [with the Rangers]. Since then, they’ve been Tampa Bay’s best defensemen. They played together in their first years, but this season Jon Cooper split them up to even out the star power in the lineup.

Hockeysverige.se met Hedman and Stralman before the trip to Köln and asked them if they remember the first game they played together.

“Do we remember it? It must have been like hell,” says Victor Hedman with a smile on his face.

Stralman fills in, “That game went well, and I think you had the decider [game winning goal]?”

Hedman: “Yes, that’s right. We played Florida and won 3-2 in OT. Then I got hurt five or six games later.”

Was there any chemistry between the two of you or how did it feel?

“I was very excited and hopeful to get to play with a Swedish defenseman. That was going to be the first time,” says Stralman. “Until then I had only played a few shifts with Tim Erixon on the Rangers so I really looked forward to playing with a Swede.”

Hedman: “We talked a bit during the summer when you signed.”

Stralman: “Yeah, I checked a bit with you before I signed. And I had also played a little bit with Victor's older brother Oscar in juniors. It worked well so I figured it would work with the little brother too.”

Do Oscar and Victor have the same style of play?

Stralman: “No, not really. Oscar is more of a defensive specialist.”

"I've got four kids now" - Stralman

The duo played together in the World Cup of Hockey in the Fall and will probably play together in this World Championship. They both think that they have the same attributes on the ice.

Hedman: “We have about the same style of play. We can both contribute, play good defense, join the attack and read each other well. It is also the reason why we’ve played well together, because we have the sense and can read the game as two-way defensemen. We read the game the same way, complete each other, we know where the other one is on the ice and in the defensive zone.”

Victor, how do you view Anton as a defenseman?

Hedman: “He makes everything look easy. In tough situations in our own zone, he always makes it out with the puck. He is also very good at reading the game. He has a great breakout pass, very mobile, great at blocking shots, and able to go around the defense in the offensive zone. A complete defenseman.”

Anton, what is your description of Hedman as a hockey player?

Stralman: “Victor is a player with all the tools in his toolbox. He has great movement, even though he’s big. And he’s also got a great mind that sees everything when he goes on the offense. It’s been fun to watch him since he’s been really, really good. Defensively he's solid. Victor is a solid little boy and as you can see, he’s twice my size (chuckles). It’s been great to see how much he’s developed during these three seasons.”

How close are you off the ice?

Hedman: “We have a little bit different family situations and so on.”

Oh that’s right, you collect kids Anton?

Stralman: “Yeah that’s right (chuckles). I’ve got four kids so that’s where most of my time goes. At the same time we share a lot of interests as well. For example, we're both suckers for soccer. Victor is a Manchester United fan and I cheer for Liverpool. It’s usually breakfast together at either one of our hotel rooms when there’s a game on.”

Hedman: “When you’re home during the season, you really want to be at home with the family. I don’t think that you really socialize with anyone then. It’s usually on the road that we’re together.”

You’re a Manchester United fan. How does it feel that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is injured for a long time, Victor?

Hedman: “It wasn’t fun to see. That’s not an injury that you would wish upon anyone, but if there’s someone who can come back from that injury at that age, it’s him. He never ceases to amaze. He’s also in great shape.”

Who won the last games between Manchester United and Liverpool?

“Two draws,” they answer simultaneously.

So it’s been pretty cool between you this season?

Stralman: “Yes, pretty cool. Both have been real snooze games. You wish that there was more heart and local players, but it hasn’t been in either Liverpool or United. The heat kinda fizzles around the derbys.”

Hedman: “United has one player from Manchester and that’s Rashford, but not much else.”

Stralman: “Liverpool has many English players, but none from Liverpool,” says Stralman with a stern look on his face.

"We never want to lose" - Hedman

What are your thoughts about the trip to Köln?

Stralman: “I very much look forward to it. We have a great group of players and leaders. Now it’s just about getting it to work on the ice. We have a great team on paper, but mostly it is about what we do out there. I think that we have very high expectations so it’s gonna be very exciting.”

Hedman: “It felt really interesting to come here once we missed the playoffs in Tampa. I’ve heard from a lot of guys that they were going to come here and play, so I understood that we were going to get a great group. I think that it’s important that we get along since we're going to be here for some time. At the same time, it’s like Anton said, we can have the best team, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t click on the ice. We realize now after this week that it’s a good thing that we got to play together some more as it got better along the way. It’s gonna be [expletive] fun once it starts.”

Does the results of the pre-tournament games worry you?

“No we’re not worried, but we never want to lose,” says Hedman with a serious look in his eyes, and continues, “Looking at the results, it’s not perfect anywhere. But I think, as I said, that it’s good that we got to play off the bad games. We have been training hard. After that we got two days rest, so there’s no excuses anymore.”

Stralman: “You’ve got to keep in mind that we were 15-16 guys who just flew home and are not used to the big ice. It’s actually a pretty big difference. It might be hard for those who don’t play hockey to know, but you read the lines on the ice and it’s also them you go after when you attack or defend. When the lines are different from what you are used to you end up in the wrong place and think that you’re right. It takes some time to adjust your brain.”

It’s 16 NHL-players and maybe the best team since 2012 in Stockholm when Erik Karlsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson and you Victor were on the team. How do you feel about that?

Hedman: “And maybe it didn’t go so well. What’s important here is that we don’t start pounding our chests and expect other people to do it for us. It’s important to be a collective who does this together. It’s one of the great things about us Swedes, it doesn’t matter if we play five minutes or twenty, we accept our roles. We want to go out and feel pride in our chests and do well,” says Hedman and pats the crowns on his chest. “Everyone knows their roles and the management has been clear about what’s expected from me, Anton, and everyone else - what our roles on the ice are.”

Who will Sweden face in the Finals, because that’s where you’re going right?

Hedman: “Yeah, I hope so. It would be fun to play Canada. Actually it doesn’t matter if we face them in the semifinal or the final, but we’re gonna win the last game of the tournament either way.”

Stralman: “I think it’s going to be one of the European teams, since it’s on the big ice. But we’ll see.”

Hedman: “Germany?”

Stralman: “Yeah, that would be fun, haha.”