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Postcards from the World Cup

Postcard: Between the benches

NHL.com's Dave Stubbs talks with Swedish broadcaster who sees game from ice level

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

TORONTO -- Jonatan Lindquist was struggling with the top button of his dress shirt, "borrowed from a colleague who's much smaller than me."

The Swedish broadcaster and I were standing between the Air Canada Centre's benches Thursday, 90 minutes before Team Finland would take on Team Russia in their final preliminary-round game at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"The suit is mine, and it fits me," Lindquist said with a laugh. "But I ran out of shirts. The days are so long and I haven't got to the dry cleaners - we have a morning meeting at 8:30, I'm home at midnight and then I write for our website."

Lindquist, 27, works for Viasat television, a World Cup rights-holder. One of his jobs is to report for his network from between the benches.

Media credentials give a person unique points of view, and I tremendously enjoy wandering the limited-access areas of arenas, especially at ice level.

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Team Finland's bench was being prepared by a few World Cup staff members who were organizing towels, opening Gatorade bottles and arranging a pyramid of pucks on the top of the boards that a Finnish player would sweep onto the ice for warmup; 45 pucks carefully stacked, nine lying flat as the base, then eight, seven and up to the single puck that stood on edge at the top.

A total of 24 sticks were lined up behind the bench in a neat row that began with two of Pekka Rinne's goal sticks and ended a few feet along with a pair of Warriors bearing the name of Mikko Koivu.

Lindquist, and any other rinkside reporter, must be in position at Air Canada Centre before warmup; there is no way into their spot other than through the team benches.

This is the fourth season in North America for Lindquist, who's based in California, his third with Viasat. What better tournament to debut between the benches than the World Cup, a showcase of the game's greatest players?

"Usually when you're in the press box, you forget how fast the game is," Lindquist said as Air Canada Centre's twin ice-resurfacing machines came out for their first of several runs. He quickly leaned over the boards to scoop up a meal voucher that had fluttered to the ice, lest it be chewed to shreds.

"Being at ice level, you realize how fast this game is and how skilled these players are. To do what they do at this speed; well, it's humbling to see how good they are at their craft.

"It's also fun to see what guys are most active on the bench; cheering on teammates, talking to teammates, making tactical adjustments. It's fun for me to watch how active [Team Sweden's] Erik Karlsson is as a leader. He lets the team know when they need to play better, but every break he'll discuss something with a player or two, whether it's the Sedins, [Nicklas] Backstrom, {Filip] Forsberg, or the fourth-line guys. Every break, he'll discuss minor details with someone."

If you think Team Canada's Connor McDavid is impressive on television or from your arena seat, Lindquist would like to bring you down to ice level when the phenom rockets by.

"I've seen a lot of championships and seen a lot of great players," he said. "But watching McDavid at ice level, at full stride, I don't know if I can compare that to anything. He just blew my mind. The stride he has, how fluid and how fast it is … it's like he's gliding but he's flying."

Lindquist, long and lanky and "a bad hockey player in my youth," was now ready to get busy, swinging his leg over the boards to his place between the benches. I noticed a tear in the seam of his pants at his left pocket. A couple of days earlier, a fellow Swede, Ottawa Senators legend Daniel Alfredsson, was joking about a similar tear in the same place on his right pocket.

"Mats Zuccarello [of Team Europe] actually heard me rip them," Lindquist said, laughing. "He told me, 'Hey, you'd better start working out in the summertime.'"

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