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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Andersson reels in Red Wings' big fish

PITTSBURGH -- The fish are there if you know where to look.
Find a spot where there's potential. Big fish. Small fish. Lots of fish means better chance for a good catch.
Then watch and wait. Work the pool you're in. Pretty soon, you'll be reeling them in and then dining with friends, talking about the ones you got, not the ones that got away.
At least it sounds that simple when you talk to Hakan Andersson.
Andersson is known today as the director of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings. His fingerprints on the success of this franchise are unmistakable. Of the 31 players on the Red Wings' playoff roster, 14 are Europeans. Of those 14, only Nicklas Lidstrom wasn't scouted by Andersson, having come to the Red Wings just before Andersson was hired. Of the 20 Red Wings who dressed for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, 11 were Europeans, 10 scouted by Andersson.
He might be good at finding hockey players, but ask Andersson and that's not his true talent.
"I was a better fishing guide than scout," said Andersson, smiling at the one (career) that got away.
Before he came into the Red Wings organization in 1989 as a scout, Hakan Andersson was an international fishing guide, working for a Pittsburgh-based company, Frontiers.
Andersson started in Sweden, then started working as a guide for Frontiers in Norway. When the company expanded to Argentina, Andersson soon found himself in Rio Grande, on the southern tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, guiding rich travelers through week-long fly fishing excursions.
"As a guide, you would take two clients out," said Andersson. "You would have different pools. I would teach them fly fishing, fishing tactics … use this fly, change to another fly, take the fish now. They had a farm house. The guides would live there, the guests. You'd have dinner together. It was a lot of fun."
Prices for such excursions today run up to $10,000 per week, according to Frontiers' web site. That meant that Andersson found himself as fishing guides to some prominent families of money, including the Rockerfellers. In an odd crossing of hockey paths, Andersson was guide to the late Seymour Knox, founder of the Buffalo Sabres.
Occasionally, Andersson will still fish with some of his former clients, but nowadays his fishing is just for fun and relaxation, not a career.
His hockey career slowly overtook his fishing life in the early 1990s.
The Red Wings hired Andersson in 1989 as a Swedish scout to replace Christer Rockstrom, who left for the New York Rangers, but recommended Andersson before he did.
Andersson was hired by the Red Wings over the phone, sight unseen. No interview. No handshake.
The first front-office person that Andersson met was current general manager Ken Holland in January, 1990, when Holland made a trip to Sweden as Detroit's director of amateur scouting.
Andersson calls Holland "the best scout I've ever met," saying that Holland "knows things about a player just seeing him once that it takes me three or four times to see."
It's a mutual admiration. Holland says this of the scout that brought Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen to the Red Wings: "Hakan certainly is one of the best in the business. You've just got to look at his track record. … Obviously Hakan has been an MVP behind the scenes for us."
After the Red Wings hired him, Andersson gave up guiding fishing excursions in Argentina. The February-March fishing season was a conflict with hockey.
But Andersson still did tours outside of Stockholm in the spring and in Norway from June-August while working for the Red Wings.
His two careers co-existed until the mid-90s when hockey began to take over. Hockey seasons in Europe run to the springtime. Then there's draft preparation and then the draft itself every June. There's no more time for Norwegian summer fishing.
In June of 1994, the Red Wings gave Hakan Andersson a draft pick, meaning they selected a player in the amateur draft that no one other than Andersson had scouted. That was a big step for a scout, not insisting that other more experienced eyes look at a player before investing in him.
It was only a 10th-round pick -- 257th overall -- but Andersson brought Tomas Holmstrom to the Red Wings with it. And that was the start of Andersson becoming the head of a scouting network in Europe that has reeled in such big fish as Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall.
Zetterberg was found when Andersson went to a remote tournament in Finland to scout Swede Mattias Weinhandl. Datsyuk was found when Andersson was sent to look at Russian Dmitri Kalinin. Franzen was found in the lower levels of Swedish hockey by Andersson before even Swedish elite league teams had found him.
There are big catches in hockey talent pools. The Red Wings have the perfect guide in Andersson.


Anonymous Justin said...

We are so fortunate to have Andersson and Holland as part of the Red Wings club.

May 30, 2008 at 5:27 PM 

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