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03/14/2007 10:00 AM -

Goaltender Stefan Liv has watched his game improve as he becomes more comfortable with North American hockey.

Story by Mark Newman

Stefan Liv is a first-year pro in North America, but he is no stranger to the world of hockey. The lanky, 6-foot, 177-pound netminder played the last seven seasons in the Swedish Elite League, having earned No. 1 goalie status at the age of 19.

Detroit’s third choice (102nd overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Liv has represented Sweden in four World Championship tournaments and was a member of Sweden’s gold-medal winning Olympic team at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Born in Gdynia, Poland, Liv was adopted by Swedish parents from an orphanage when he was about 18 months old. He knows little about his heritage, although that may change...

You were recently contacted by your biological mother for the first time. How did that happen?

“She read about me in a Polish newspaper after I was interviewed recently by a woman in Chicago. She was quite shocked to find out about me. We have sent each other e-mails and now I have some pictures. I don’t know if we will meet – it’s still so new. It’s a pretty big thing for me. It may take some time.”

What prompted you to finally make the decision to sign with the Red Wings and come to North America?

“I felt like I was ready for a new challenge. To come and try to play for the Detroit Red Wings is probably the biggest challenge you can have. It’s a great opportunity for me to live in the USA and play hockey.”

Has the adjustment been more difficult than you imagined?

“I had a tough start. I was 1-6-1 and I felt like I couldn’t get the team a win. Right before Christmas, I won a one-goal game against Peoria and my confidence came back. I think it helped to finally have my family (wife Anna and six-month-old son Herman) settled. Maybe that had to happen before things on the ice came together.

“Playing in the smaller rinks was different. Everything here comes to you so much faster. You have to be aware that players can score from anywhere in the zone, so you’ve got to get back up faster. I think I was a little bit lazy in the beginning. (Red Wings goaltending coach) Jim Bedard really worked with me to play better and I’m starting to improve.”
You’re known for having a large collection of goalie masks. How many do you have?

“I’ve stopped counting. I think it’s like 20-something. I’m good friends with (Swedish mask painter) David Gunnarsson, who lives about 10 miles from me in the summer.

“I have masks with the Swedish princess, Spider-Man and King Kong. There’s one with my mom and my agent is on another. I have a Shrek mask and a friend of mine has the donkey.

“In Sweden, I would have two or three every season, usually one for the regular season and one for the playoffs. One year, I had a home mask and an away mask and another one for the playoffs. David calls me when he gets new ideas. He’s definitely one of the best in the world.”

How has your life changed since the birth of your son?

“Being a father is the best thing ever – it beats all of my hockey experiences. It’s just amazing to come home and see that smile. It helps you forget about a bad practice or a bad game. I think you get a different view of life. It’s helped my hockey a lot to have my wife and him here.”

What was it like to play in the Olympics?

“It obviously was one of the biggest experiences in my hockey career. I played our first game when we beat Kazakhstan 7-2. I think all of Sweden was watching because it was a game that we couldn’t (afford to) lose. It was so fun to get the start and to be able to play with so many great players.

“Hopefully, I’ll get another memory here.”

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