Mats Näslund was the the same kind of star for the older generation of Montreal fans as Saku Koivu is to the newer generation.
He helped break the barrier for smaller players in the NHL, and he was the first European-born player that donned the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. He is a true gentleman and he is Montreal’s own "Le Petit Viking" (and yes he thinks nicknames were better before).
Näslund graciously hosted the new PuckDrop podcast in his house so we could do the recording in person. I got the chance to sit down with him on a cloudy afternoon, overlooking the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, for a conversation about hockey in general, and Montreal in particular.
Näslund takes his time and answers the questions candidly. There are two times that stand out as to when when his competitive side took over. One is when the ‘84 Canada Cup is mentioned and Näslund frankly says "We were not not fair treated by Canada".
The other time is when the Quebec Nordiques are mentioned, and if there has ever been a doubt in the younger generations about the meaning of that rivalry for a player, you don’t have to wonder any more; "Our biggest rivalry was with the Quebec Nordiques when I was there. Montreal players really hated the Quebec Nordiques, and Nordiques players really hated Montreal too". There is nothing else to say, more than telling NHL to bring it back the rivalry at their earliest convenience.
In the end Montreal leaves a lasting impression and he is proud when he says "You have a lot of pressure playing in Montreal. People know the game and people let you know when you when you are not producing. The pressure of playing in Montreal is always been tough" and Mats Näslund would know that - he was the first European after all.