The genial 65-year-old Huddinge native has played his role humbly and diligently with 27 Swedish medal-winning teams in IIHF competition. At the Olympics, that includes two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal. At the Worlds, it’s eight gold medals, eight silver medals, and seven bronze medals. That makes Weiderstal one of the most decorated team officials in international hockey history.
“Pudding” has worked under a who’s-who of Swedish coaches, from Curt Lindstrom and Leif Boork to Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and Rikard Gronborg. Yet now, he is looking forward to being his own boss. He loves being outdoors, riding boats, and tinkering with his 1966 Mustang Cab. “Pudding” is excited about spending more time with his family, and has already planned an epic trip through Alberta and British Columbia with his wife this fall.
With “Team Pudding,” he plans to stay involved in hockey. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, “Team Pudding” enables Stockholm-area NHLers to skate together in August, with “Pudding” taking care of all the logistics. Recent participants include the likes of Patric Hornqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, and Niklas Kronwall.
We caught up with “Pudding” and asked him to reflect on his legendary career and his favourite hockey memories.
On his feelings about retiring
I've done this for my whole life. I started when I was 18 with the junior national team and when I was 30 with the Three Crowns. I said to the coaches, to Team Sweden, and to the federation: "I think I'm going to quit after the Olympics." "Oh, no, no, no way! This is your life." Everyone is saying: "He'll never quit." But I decided: "If they want me to stay, they're going to ask me for a couple of small things to do. If they don't, I have to make the right decision."
This is a tough sport. It's a tough job to have. So you never know. You can get sick, get tired or get a bad knee or bad back. The important thing for me was that I take the decision. Maybe if I stayed two more years, the coach would say: "Hey, hey, you look tired now. So you don't carry the bags anymore. It's lots of moving up and down." But it's a tough decision, and I’ve taken it. This is my last year. Hopefully they still hire me for some small things next year. I'm not going to sit on the sofa.
On how he got the nickname of “Pudding”
It was from a friend’s mother. We were always playing street hockey when I was five or six years old. She said: “Anders Panders Puddingpastej, segla runt jorden med en tjej.” “Anders Panders Puddingpastej, sail around the world with a girl.” In Swedish, it’s more in harmony.
Anyway, when I started school, everyone knew this name. No one said "Anders." Everyone on my hockey or soccer teams said "Pudding." It's a nice name. How many Puddings do you know who are 65?
Sometimes, colleagues from Team Canada or Team U.S. or Russia have called the federation, and if I didn't answer, they’d go to the switchboard. The switchboard says: "Hey, you called for Mr. Anders Weiderstahl?" And they say: "No way, we called Mr. Pudding!" They didn't know my real name! Everyone said “Pudding.” It's only my mom who’d say "Anders," I think, and maybe my kids.
On the tougher working conditions at his first two Worlds in 1985 and 1986
It was so different compared to this year. The hotel was smaller. Not so good food at that time. Now you have as much fruit as you want. You have drinks, you have Coke. You didn't have Coke in '85. You didn't have anything at all. We were three lines and two extra players. We had small management. But I was really, really excited there.
The next year, it was in Moscow in '86. It was the same, worse. A cold hotel. I remember I had long underwear, like the players. You'd sleep in it because it was cold in the room. Now we have everything. It's luxury when you are in Moscow. But at that time, you couldn't pick how much food you wanted. It was maybe one or two potatoes, two spoons of rice, one bottle of water. Then you had to go downstairs to the lobby to call Sweden. You had to wait for one hour. There were no cell phones, nothing. You'd have these Post-It notes waiting at the hotel when you came back. Everything has changed a lot.
On how practical jokes flourished in the old days
In the 1980s, it was practical jokes all the time. They changed car keys. They’d put shaving cream in your socks. They'd saw the sticks and take the skates. They moved all the furniture out of my room. They glued my shoes to the floor. You had to keep your head up all the time! Ice buckets on the door when I opened the door. Now the guys are so serious. I've done the best time, I think, the 80s and 90s. But it's really, really fun now too.
On what the game-day routine of an equipment manager and his staff looks like today, using the latest Sweden-Switzerland game as an example
We were here around 9 o'clock in the morning to prepare. We sharpened the skates, put the tape on the table, made coffee, hung out the underwear, and sorted sticks. I repaired some stuff. I changed blades. I put some new rivets on a couple of players' skates and worked on a couple of visors. The players came down, and they had their massage and coffee. The game-day skate was optional, so half the team was on the ice. Then we did the same again: hang things up, leave the laundry, collect all the towels, put out new fruit and coffee.
We got back to the hotel around 2 o'clock for a quick lunch. I went to bed for an hour around 3:30. Then we came down again. Some of the players come here three hours before. So they were here at 5. We got set again with the same procedures with the skates, underwear, and everything else. Prepared the room. We had a quick meeting with the equipment guys and the medical guys. We had a coffee and said: "Are we prepared for tonight? Let's go!" The players came down for the game. Afterwards, I think I went back around 20 minutes after midnight, so I went to bed at 1 o'clock. It's a long day.
On how he enjoys meeting requests from players
Some of them are really picky with their equipment. They're really professionals these days. I think Henrik Lundqvist does most of the job himself. When the players are leaving, he stays for 30 or 45 minutes and takes care of his own equipment. He might say to me: "Hey, Pudding, can you make a couple of stitches here? Can you dry this? Tomorrow I need this."
It’s fun to work with professional players who need something. It's boring to work with guys who never ask for something and just get dressed. "Sharper skates? Ah no, I don't think so. I'm OK." I like it when they ask. It's a challenge when you need to be on the edge all the time.
On a time when "Pudding" made a direct difference in a big game for Sweden
I did once in the 1992 World Championship final in Prague. Peter Forsberg was 19 years old and he had such bad equipment. He had gloves with no palms in them. He had just a couple of old sticks, and his skates were awful. After 10 minutes in the third period, his skates got broken. I had to get in there and repair them. So I put copper rivets all over the place. It's more steady with copper than other rivets. That helped, because he scored and we won the gold medal!
On what it takes to become a top-level equipment manager in hockey
I think you need to be some kind of handyman and well-organized and like hockey. It's a tough job, but if you like it, you never feel how much it is time-wise. If you have a regular job and the time is 4 or 5 o'clock, you want to go home. This is a lifestyle. You don't have your family here. You have to do your work, and only then you can take a rest, reading or eating or making a tour in the city.