Hagman's family jewels

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

His blonde bombshell wife, model Piritta Hannula, was Miss Europe 2003 and Miss Scandinavia 2004.

His father, Matti Hagman, was the first Finnish-born and Finnish trained player to appear in an NHL game, knitting a career with the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and the WHA's Quebec Nordiques before moving back to his native country where he became, in the words of his son, the "Wayne Gretzky" of the Finnish league.

His aunt, Riitta Salin, was a track star, winning the 400-metres at the 1974 European Championship in Rome.

This is one family that is very much accustomed to the spotlight.

Perhaps that is one reason why new Maple Leafs forward Niklas (Larry) Hagman is not shying away from being in the hockey-crazed fishbowl of Toronto.

In the world of Niklas Hagman and his family, being a celebrity comes with the territory. When this clan gets together like they did on Tuesday for the 84th birthday of his grandfather, Nils, Niklas, 28, is far from being the most famous face at the function.

"In our family we've got a lot," Niklas Hagman said yesterday, noting that he also has relatives who played on the Finnish national soccer team.

It was during the birthday bash for Nils that Niklas started receiving calls from agent Don Baizley concerning teams that were interested in his services. Niklas Hagman, coming off a career-high 27 goal season with the Dallas Stars, had never waded into free agency before.

"Pretty much the whole family was there," Hagman said from Finland. "When the phone started to ring a bit more I had to leave."

The Leafs immediately tweaked his interest.

"They gave the impression that they really wanted me," Hagman said. "I really wanted to go somewhere that the team really wanted me."

Hagman is not scared off by suiting up for rebuilding franchise. He relishes the opportunity to gobble up more ice time, along with hopefully seeing duty on the penalty killing and power-play units.

Knowing there will be growing pains in Toronto, Hagman wanted to make sure he would be with the team long enough to see this blue-and-white reclamation job reach fruition.

"That's why I looked for a longer contract," he said.

He would get that, a four-year deal worth $12 million US. But before agreeing to terms, he talked with goalie Vesa Toskala, a fellow Finn and a former teammate on the national team.

"He had only good things to say about the place," Hagman said. "For me, knowing him and what he said, it made me more certain."

What did Toskala tell him about the Leafs?

"The main thing was how good (Ron Wilson) was. He said he was a really good coach."

Niklas Hagman was only one-year-old when his dad was playing on an Edmonton Oilers team with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Years later, when Niklas was a Florida Panther, he was preparing for a face off when Messier, then a New York Ranger, looked over at him.

"I played with your dad," Messier said. "Man, I must be getting old."

Rubbing elbows with the likes of Hall of Famers such as Messier is no big deal for Niklas Hagman. Not when your family is full of celebrities.


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