For most foreign players that join the USHL, like Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Gustav Olofsson, they must learn English and adapt to American culture while learning to play hockey against the best players from around the nation.
But Olofsson, who grew up in Sweden and played most of his amateur hockey there, has also lived in San Jose for three years and was a member of the Colorado Thunderbirds before joining the Gamblers in 2011.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said of the move to America.
He said he missed his family, but had already learned English and did not have trouble with the move from Colorado to Wisconsin.
“Mostly missing the family,” he said of the greatest difficulty he faced, “but once I got more familiar with all the guys, you feel more comfortable and realize that you just have to have fun and it’s a good opportunity.”
Most hockey sites list his hometown as Boras, which is in southern Sweden, but he is actually from Umea. Like many of the northern cities, Umea is less populated than Gothenburg and Stockholm in the south, but it was a great place to learn the game of hockey.
“It was really good for skill development,” he says, noting that in Sweden there is more emphasis on individual skills rather than team situations in practices. “You wouldn’t have that many breakouts and team drills: 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s. The whole practice would be individually skating, stick handling and just a lot of that work. Then it progresses as you get older.”
“California hockey is growing a lot, especially up north,” says the former Santa Clara Blackhawk and Jr. Shark who lived in the Golden State from second to fifth grade. “They did a good job. I had very good coaches that helped me become who I am today.”
After another stint in Sweden, his family moved back to America when he was a teenager. This time they settled in Broomfield, CO, a suburb half-an-hour north of Denver.
“When I came, [they] had a whole bunch of Triple A programs [developing] so I think it was the right place,” he says. “Now, they’re producing guys that go to the USHL and college, so it’s definitely building.”
The 18-year-old is projected to be a mid-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. He had many scholarship offers from schools around the nation and could have returned to Sweden as well, but has committed to Colorado College for the 2014-15 season.
“It’s hometown,” he says. “It’s just an hour and a half away. Great school, education is very important, and it just seemed right to me—the small school atmosphere, and they do a great job coaching. Scott Owens does a really good job with defense so it suited me really well.”
Olofsson may have been born in Sweden, but he has made a home for himself here in America.
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