Meet Sweden’s #1 Skills Coach

Last week, in the Maple Leafs game against the Oilers, William Nylander carried the puck into the offensive zone. At the hash marks, he made a quick turn to shake Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off his back, and passed the puck to Jake Muzzin who fired a shot from the point. Nylander followed the play and tied the game with a slap shot from the slot.

It’s a move Nylander does often. He makes a quick turn to win time for himself.

“Turns and winning time” was also the topic of Joachim Ahlgren Bloom’s recent presentation at Global Skills Showcase, organized by the NHL Coaches Association’s partner Coaches’ Site. They went looking for the best skill development coaches in the game and of the original 250 nominees, twenty were invited to make a presentation.

Ahlgren Bloom, 47, was the only skills development coach from Sweden to get the invitation.

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Life on Planet Lankinen

Before the season, few people gave the Chicago Blackhawks any chance of making the playoffs. No, no, this was a team in a rebuild mode, especially when Jonathan Toewshad to step away due to illness.

And yet, the Hawks are currently fourth in the Central division, a couple of games over .500, and they’ve done it thanks to heroic performances by Patrick Kane and their Finnish rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen.

Lankinen, 25, may be a rookie, but his hockey journey is almost the perfect example of how to build a successful career, step by step.

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Pelicans ground themselves and go carbon neutral

LAHTI, Finland –– Some fans probably rubbed their eyes when they came to a Lahti Pelicans game in January and saw that some of their favourite players had special numbers on their sweaters.

Top scorer Ryan Lasch’s usual “19” had become 2019 and goaltender Jasper Patrikainen’s “70” had a “%” after it.

Both symbolized the Pelicans and their hometown Lahti’s environmental goals. Lahti s the European Green Capital 2021 and in line with that, the Pelicans aim to become the world’s first carbon-neutral hockey team by the end of 2021.

Lasch’s 2019 is a reference to when Lahti stopped using coal, while 70 percent on Patrikainen’s sweater refers to the decrease in gashouse emissions since 1990. Other numbers were, for example, “8%” and “650 GWh.”

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The Hobbit (moves on)

In Hovin, an Oslo, Norway neighborhood, there’s a small pond that freezes in the winter, which makes it perfect for kids who want to skate. It sits inside a pocket of red brick houses, a stone’s throw from Valle Hovin, a speed skating arena, and Vallhall, an indoor soccer arena.

You can see the pond from the houses on the hill, and if you’re lucky, some kids will be playing. And just like kids everywhere, half their game takes place on the ice, the other half in their heads. Nobody’s ever just himself, because everybody’s pretending to be someone famous.

When Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers forward playing in his fifth season in the National Hockey League, was younger, his heroes were Peter Forsberg, the Swedish Hockey Hall of Famer, and his Colorado Avalanche teammates, Canadians Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Posters of those three were plastered on the walls of his room.

On that same wall, now his brother’s room, there’s a New York Rangers sweater number 36, with “Zuccarello” on the back.

How times have changed.

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Home game

Yesterday, as I was at a hockey store, getting some new skates for Daughter, it occurred to me that outside our house, there are two places where I’m fully comfortable and at ease. One of them is a car and the other a hockey rink. Any car and any hockey rink in the world.

One of my earliest memories involves a drive to a hockey rink in Helsinki. My Dad had a game and for some strange reason I got to tag along. In the mental image in my head, it’s the middle of the winter, there’s a lot of snow, we park our car far from the rink, I walk into a wood-paneled dressing room – and smell the stench of hockey gloves for the first time.

And, oddly enough, even the smell is a pleasant memory.

Naturally, I have no way of verifying any of that, except that it probably was the middle of the winter because back then, the hockey season was much shorter and that the gloves probably did stink because they always stank back then.

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Frölunda’s constant gardeners

About seven years ago, Mats Grauers, then newly-elected chairman of the Frölunda Indians, had to secure a loan of SEK 20 million from the City of Gothenburg to solve the hockey club’s cashflow problems. The team that had won the Swedish title five years earlier had taken a nosedive, and as always, turning things around took time.

Between 2010 and 2013, Frölunda accumulated losses totalling almost seven million euros, and on the ice, things weren’t much better. They missed the playoffs once and were ousted in the first round twice.

In 2016, Frölunda won the Swedish championship and the Champions Hockey League title and repeated the CHL feat in 2017. The secret? Building the team from ground up with a clear vision … and patience.

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Lauri Mononen – taistelija, taiteilija

“Tanssii kuin perhonen, pistää kuin ampiainen”.

Ensimmäisen kerran kuulin Muhammad Alin kuuluisan kuvauksen itsestään Hockey Sports Shop -urheiluliikkeessä Helsingin Oulunkylässä. Taivaskallion kupeessa ollut liike ei ollut ihan tavallinen urheilukauppa, sillä sen olivat perustaneet HIFK-pelaajat Lauri Mononen ja Reijo Laksola.

Syksyllä 1978 Ali oli kovan paikan edessä, sillä hän oli helmikuussa, heikosti harjoitelleena, hävinnyt raskaan sarjan MM-tittelinsä helpoksi vastustajaksi arvioidulle Leon Spinksille. Koko maailma odotti uusintaottelua ja Hockey Sports Shopissakin oli Ali v Spinks -matsin juliste.

Late matki Alin kevyttä askelta ja sanoi tanssivansa kuin perhonen.

“Ali voittaa,” Late ennusti, koska hän toivoi Alin voittoa.

Laten ennustus toteutui, ja Ali voitti Spinksin. Ali jäi eläkkeelle ainoana nyrkkeilijänä, joka oli voittanut raskaan sarjan tittelin kolmesti – mutta teki sitten paluun ja hävisi Larry Holmesille.

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All about the kids

We all have dreams, and we’re told to follow them. We encourage children to work hard and to do everything they can to make their dreams come true.

Yet we also know that we all need some help along the way. Mats Zuccarello had help. Even Henrik Lundqvist had help. And to make sure they can, in turn, help others, they joined forces and put together Summer Classic, an outdoor charity game at Ullevaal, Norway’s national stadium.

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A legend of a man

Lauri Mononen, March 22, 1950 – August 5, 2018

One September morning in 1977, I was in a rush to read the sports pages of the Helsinki morning paper, even more than usual, because the Finnish SM-liiga had kicked off the night before. I turned to the back of the newspaper, and saw a headline about Lauri Mononen scoring a “Canadian hat trick”.

I had never heard of such a thing, but I learned that it was not just a regular hat trick, but a double one. Six goals.

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