King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden dropped in on the Hall during their state visit to Canada. The royals chatted with Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, got a close look at a freshly buffed Stanley Cup and briefly toured the exhibits.
The king and queen lingered longest in front of a Swedish section, packed with such mementoes as sweaters from Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson, a goalie stick from Kim Martin and socks from Freddie Modin.
Sweden is the current world and Olympic men’s champion.
Asked if he followed hockey, King Carl Gustav replied: “Of course.”
“The king is quite aware of the importance of hockey,” Sittler told reporters later.
“Obviously hockey’s a big sport over there,” the former Leafs captain added. “They’ve got lots of players with their names on the Stanley Cup. . . . Obviously the Swedes are very powerful in the sport of hockey in the world. With Borje Salming back in the early ’70s kind of leading the way, you look at the number of Swedish players that have made an impact in the National Hockey League, a guy like (Peter) Forsberg, and Mats, and a number of others, (Nicklas) Lidstrom.
“I’m sure there’s going to be lots of other Swedish young guys coming on the heels of these guys.”
The Leafs honoured Salming recently for his distinguished service to the team.
Sittler seemed to enjoy his brush with royalty.
“The opportunity to meet a king and queen, that doesn’t happen very often so it was a special moment,” he said.
But he also expressed his regrets that the NHL schedule prevented Leafs captain Sundin and fellow Swede Alexander Steen from meeting the king and queen. The Leafs had a date with the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.
The royals also checked out the Lucky Loonie exhibit, with Sittler and Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard explaining the coin’s history.
“He said (it’s a) good thing we won, otherwise this display wouldn’t be here,” Sittler said of the king’s response.
Sittler, 54, says he still can’t believe he’s a member of the Hall of Fame.
“When I started playing, I never though that would happen. I always thought it was for old people,” said Sittler, who was inducted in 1989 when he was 39.
“I wear the ring with pride.”
The 60-year-old king and 62-year-old queen had their own link to sports.
They met at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where the then-Silvia Sommerlath was an interpreter and hostess. They were married four years later and have three children: two crown princesses and a prince.
Carl Gustav Folke Hubertus became Sweden’s head of state in 1973 when he was 27. His motto is “For Sweden – With the times.”
German-born Queen Silvia speaks six languages, but used none of them with reporters watching the Hall of Fame visit. The event was strictly a photo opportunity, with Swedish TV and photographers joining local reporters.