Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom penned an article discussing a business venture in which former Red Wings players Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall have teamed up with Auston Matthews of all people to advance the Swedish inline skate brand Marsblade.
This article may seem like Swedish fluffernutter, but it reveals some important details regarding the latter stages of Henrik Zetterberg’s career, a bit about Niklas Kronwall’s decision to move back to Sweden this past summer, and Marsblade’s plans to expand its NHL footprint.
What follows is roughly translated from Swedish:
The superstar’s new venture with “Zata”
LOS ANGELES. Auston Matthews, 23, is one of the NHL’s biggest names after four seasons in the league.
He likes Toronto’s investment in Swedish players over the years.
“I love having William Nylander as a linemate. He really is a special player and one of the smartest in the NHL today. And a close friend,” says Auston in an interview with SportExpressen.
Matthew’s ties to Sweden are now even stronger.
He’s now a co-owner of Marsblade in Östersund, which manufactures inline skates and has now also developed a skate rail to be launched in the hockey world.
“When the NHL’s games stopped in March due to covid-19, I went home to Arizona and kept going by switching to inline skates in the backyard to my house in Scottsdale, where I have a small rink. I ordered a pair of Swedish inline skates and that’s the way it is,” says Matthews.
For the management of Marsblade, the recruitment of Auston Matthews as an investor and spokesman for the company is worth its weight in gold, because it’s now a harder time to invest harder in the North American market.
“Of course, getting a player of this caliber as an ambassador and investor for our products means an enormous amount. Now we hope that he can come here to Sweden and visit us next summer if the pandemic is under control then,” says Per Mars, product manager and innovator at Marsblade.
Per Mars himself has played hockey at an elite level with Brynäs in the Eliteserien and represented Björklöven in the Hockeyallsvenskan.
The company experienced increased traffic to its website when the coronavirus struck in March, and the NHL imposed a game ban.
“Traffic increased tenfold overnight. We had about 150 players in the NHL who used our inline skates during pre-eason training earlier with names like Evgeni Malkin, Brent Burns, and Max Pacioretty, as well as the Swedes Anton Stralman, Gustav Nyquist and Alexander Edler, as some of the names. Now the number is probably up to over 300 players and Auston Matthews is one of them,” says Mars.
Zäta: “Far too fast and skilled”
Swedish NHL professionals Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall joined the company as early partners.
“It has been a fun trip. During the last years of my career, I had back problems, which meant that I could not bike or run during the summer training at home in Sweden, so I found a good alternative with roller skates or inline skates, as they are called,” says Zata.
During his final seasons in the Detroit Red Wings, he often faced Auston Matthews in meetings with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He was far too fast and skilled for me, so I had to tell him before the draws to hold back a bit. That I was an old man, ha ha” …
Detroit and Toronto are two of the NHL’s six original teams, and have been great rivals over the years.
Now Zäta and Matthews have become teammates in a Swedish company.
“That he steps in and wants to be part of this journey is incredibly delicious. We’ve had a good dialogue for a while and we’re a fun bunch, so I think he will enjoy it. We are facing an expansion and I feel that he is pumped up to join us,” says Zata.
Matthews tells SportExpressen that he has the greatest respect for Zetterberg.
“We were always matched up against each other when we met, and I must say that he was a tough opponent. He was at the end of his career, and maybe not as fast on the skates as before, but Henrik is definitely one of the smartest players I have faced in the NHL. You got nothing for free when he was on the ice. He had a fantastic career.”
Toronto has a history of Swedish stars with Börje Salming and Mats Sundin as the biggest names. Do you notice that their spirit rests a little over the club?
“Absolutely. They were both big stars in Toronto, and during my four years in the Maple Leafs I have had many Swedish teammates.”
You are a center forward and a player who, like Sundin, carries the team on your shoulders. Was he an idol when you were growing up?
“Sundin was an idol for all the hockey-crazy young people who grew up in Toronto and the surrounding area. I grew up in the Phoenix area and had idols on the Coyotes, like Shane Doan and Daniel Briere. But of course I knew Mats Sundin, I saw him play and have seen his highlights. He was also a good role model outside the ice for everyone,” says Auston.
“It could have ended badly”
Niklas Kronwall played his last game in North America in the 2018-19 season, and he has since jumped into a job as a player developer in the Detroit Red Wings.
After an extra year in the USA, the Kronwall family moved home to Sweden for good this summer.
About the meetings with Matthews in the NHL, he says: “Yes, we probably had some battles, and at one point I was close to giving him a collarbone injury after getting a little crooked into a situation. It could have ended badly, but thankfully it went well.”
Matthews remembers the hit.
“Yes, he hit me quite hard from behind and went out for boarding, I think. But he apologized afterwards. It was an accident,” says Auston.
The 23-year-old American is one of the NHL’s best and highest-paid players after four seasons with the Maple Leafs and Kronwall ranks him highly.
“Matthews is incredibly good and really has everything [skill-wise]. He is a skilled passer, has a good shot, good size and is an excellent skater. That he joins us will be proof that this is for real. It is not a fly but gives the company a stamp of quality. Auston does not put his name on anything, people stand in line to work with him. In my eyes, this is proof that he believes in the products we have,” says Kronwall.
The deal was put together by Matthews agent Judd Moldaver at Wasserman Hockey in Los Angeles.
“Auston has advertising agreements with a number of companies, such as CCM, Nike, Scotia Bank, Dream Water and Upper Deck ,and wanted to partner with Zetterberg and Kronwall in Marsblade,” says Moldaver.
The company has also developed a rail for regular skates, which Kronwall tested during 80 games during his last season in the Red Wings.
“We are in the process of completing a new version of that ice rail and are having talks with the leading skate manufacturers. We want to create a new standard with our Flow Motion technology is in this area as well, just as we did with the inline skates,” says Per Mars.
Matthews himself says that he hopes to be able to travel to Sweden next year to meet Kronwall, Zetterberg and the staff in Ostersund.
“I have only been to Sweden on two occasions before, and participated in hockey tournaments, and then it was December and dark. Now I hope to come back and experience the Swedish summer,” says Auston Matthews.