ORNSKOLDSVIK, Sweden — This arctic burghal of some 33,000 is amid in the broken Aerial Coast, the country’s alluringly arresting amplitude forth the Gulf of Bothnia. Tiny fishing villages dot the breadth and survive off the sea’s bounty. Lumber merchants, with their humongous trucks ample aerial with logs as they beck forth the E4 highway, choose the area’s blooming forests of ache and spruce.
It is additionally affluent hockey terrain, acquiescent a motherlode of bounded aptitude such as Peter Forsberg, the Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik), Markus Naslund, Anders Hedberg, Victor Hedman, and added NHL stars who grew up actuality and played for MoDo, the onetime Swedish assertive referred to by locals as “the hockey factory.”
The city’s truncated accentuation is O-vik (oh-VEEK), and it is additionally frequently alleged Foppaland, adopted from the allegorical Forsberg’s nickname. It was Foppa, a baby-faced 20-year-old MoDo forward, who denticulate the shootout ambition at the 1994 Amateur in Lillehammer that gave the Swedes their aboriginal Olympic hockey gold medal. Sweden issued a postage brand depicting Forsberg scoring the goal, commemorating the moment and cementing the legend.
“I did not abound up cerebration about one day actuality in the NHL, no way, that was a actual abroad affair — for the accomplished ones like Peter Forsberg,” mused Linus Ullmark, chatting over cafeteria in backward August central MoDo’s home arena, the Fjallraven Center. “MoDo was my dream. My ambition was to be in MoDo with the big boys.”
Ullmark, 28, pulled on his afresh minted Bruins gear, including glassy helmet advised by acclaimed Swedish affectation painter Dave Gunnarsson, for Monday’s captain’s convenance in Brighton. Plucked from the Sabres as a chargeless abettor in July (four years/$20 million), the above MoDo backstop was assassin on by Bruins accepted administrator Don Sweeney to brace with amateur Jeremy Swayman in net, possibly with bearding adept Tuukka Rask (hip surgery) abiding with the division in progress.
“Very acquisitive to get started,” said Ullmark, who bankrupt into the NHL with the Sabres at age 22 in 2015-16. “Sometimes in my years in Buffalo, it acquainted added like a animus bout — absent to appearance we were not the affliction aggregation in the league, that we could footfall up. But we weren’t able to put it calm for a abounding season.”
The Sabres never accomplished the playoffs during his tenure. But Boston, he figures, will be different, a aggregation with expectations for a postseason run and a fan abject conditioned to success.
“A actual absolute affair for me,” Ullmark said. “I don’t see it as accent or pressure. I accept that alacrity and activity to try article new, activity to a abode I anticipate and accept that acceptable the Stanley Cup is not a abroad dream, but added a abutting reality.”
Putting fun in the game
Throughout best of August and into the aboriginal anniversary of September, Ullmark skated bristles canicule a anniversary actuality with MoDo, affability up afore abrogation for Boston forth with wife Moa, accouchement Harry (3) and Lily (9 months), and their two active corgis (Baron and Count). The Ullmarks backward aftermost year bought a hillside home in Jarved, alone a brace afar arctic of city O-vik, overlooking the city’s ablaze bay.
During his on-ice workouts with MoDo, with Hedman amid the bounded lads abutting the workouts, Ullmark still wore his Sabres affectation and Buffalo dejected pants akin in gold. The new affectation was alien from Stockholm to Brighton aboriginal this month.
“As for the dejected pants,” he acclaimed to a company from Boston, with a tiny bit of sheepishness, “yeah, OK … but those are Swedish colors, too, right?”
Ullmark, 6 anxiety 4 inches and 215 pounds, is anxious and easygoing, evocative in admeasurement and personality of John Grahame, who manned the Bruins net beyond four seasons in the aboriginal 2000s. Provided all goes as planned, Ullmark will bung in as Rask’s advancement as the workhorse, admitting with Swayman, 22, acquisitive to springboard off his own 621 career NHL account and ample a abundant role.
Upon accordant to arrangement agreement with the Bruins, Ullmark accursed a argument to Swayman, acquainted that he was attractive advanced to actuality teammates.
“I anticipate that was one of the coolest things,” Swayman said. “Just abundant for an earlier goalie, or a amateur in general, to ability out like that.”
“Just acquainted it was the appropriate affair to do,” acclaimed Ullmark, one of 10 goalies to bouncer the net during his six years in Buffalo. “I capital him to feel we’re in this together.”
Ullmark’s adventure was annihilation but direct. He grew up in Lugnvik, a baby apple (population about 500) aloof beneath an hour’s drive southwest of O-vik, and landed a atom on MoDo’s inferior agenda at age 16 alone aback the advancement goalie arranged up with a case of homesickness.
“Linus was a raw talent,” said MoDo GM Henrik Gradin, who in those canicule accomplished the club’s juniors. “Word about him again was that he ability not be absolutely committed to hockey.
“He was a bold goalie — absolutely acceptable in games, but lazy, amphitheatre hockey for fun. You appetite guys to accept fun, sure, but you appetite them to booty it seriously. We could lose, and Linus would be, like, ‘Hey, OK, it’s still a abundant day!’ A little immature, I assumption you’d say.”
Ullmark spent six seasons in MoDo, crumbling and advancing through the ranks, and was the No. 1 admiration on the varsity his aftermost two seasons. The turnaround, per both Gradin and Ullmark, was the access of Polish-born Maciej Szwoch and adolescent goalie drillmaster Magnus Helin.
“They were like added fathers for me,” said Ullmark, who has remained in acquaintance with both coaches through the years. “Maciej was the adamantine one. He capital discipline. He basically accomplished me I had to abound up. I could accuse to Magnus about Maciej and again Maciej could accuse to Magnus about me. It worked.”
Of all those juniors in his MoDo class, accurately those built-in in 1993, Ullmark has been the alone to ability the NHL. Hockey is a game, he durably believes, that charge accept fun as its underpinnings. His own circuitous aisle to the NHL, he says, is affidavit that fun and adulation of the bold are analytical to success.
“It is batty how abundant burden there is on kids these days,” he said, absorption decidedly on what he has witnessed aback advancing to the United States in 2015. “I mean, you are 8 years old and you accept to accomplish the team? What? You are amphitheatre hockey because it’s fun. You are not amphitheatre hockey to accomplish a living.
“Your kid is not activity to become an NHL amateur because he’s the best in his chic at 8 years old.”
In 2011, his aboriginal year acceptable for the NHL draft, the abrupt Ullmark went bearding amid the 211 picks. A year later, the Sabres called him at No. 163, authoritative him 17th amid the 24 goalies called that June.
It was Fredrik Andersson, a above goalie and again Buffalo scout, who phoned with the news. Ullmark was aback in Sweden with his ancestor and brother, about to bead his brother at a bus base aback the alarm came.
“Sweet!” Ullmark recalled adage to Andersson. “And again it was my ancestor who said, ‘I anticipate we should celebrate’, and I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re apparently right.’ So we collection over to a baby bazaar and bought some ice chrism and strawberries. That was the party. And I bethink thinking, ‘OK, what happens now, I don’t know.’ ”
Youth hockey memories
In Lugnvik, Ullmark and his best pal from childhood, Niklas Sjolund, spent about every winter’s day, afterwards academy and weekends, amphitheatre hockey at the association rink. Sjolund’s ancestor was their drillmaster for 8-9 years, the two boys allotment of a assertive adolescence aggregation that already went added than two seasons afterwards accident a antagonism adjoin a adjoining town.
The amid rink, congenital in allotment with added than $100,000 in aid from an NHL Players Association grassroots program, was beneath than a half-mile from the pals’ homes. The rink’s aperture was never locked. If temps were algid abundant to benumb a sheet, the boys would zip bottomward the hill, cast on the lights, and comedy until suppertime.
“It was absolutely a advantage to accept that rink,” said Sjolund.
Ullmark is the alone Lugnvik amateur to ability the NHL.
“It’s been fun to see Linus booty that bound from actuality and go to the States,” Sjolund said. “It’s absolutely unreal, yeah?”
A arresting feat, agreed Sjolund’s father, Tommy, who remembers Ullmark as the airy grammar schooler who, aback Lugnvik was assault the opposition, would devious out of net and maybe accomplish snow angels on the ice or beachcomber to accompany in the stands.
“He was added in it for the fun,” said the chief Sjolund. “He took it absolutely easy.”
“But in big games,” bound added Niklas, a advanced on those teams, “he was the best guy to accept in net, because he could focus absolutely good. Aback we had him in goal, as skaters we acquainted we alone had to comedy appropriately acceptable as the added team, because we had Linus in net.”
The Lugnvik rink, complete in the mid 1990s, had to be razed afterwards the roof burst in 2013.
“There was a hockey bold appointed for 11 that morning and my brother was activity to ref it,” recalled the adolescent Sjolund. “But the roof fell in at 9. Luckily, no one was in it.”
The acreage breadth the amphitheatre stood is now acclimated as an equestrian site. Volunteers relocated the old board boards up the artery to breadth a above academy has been adapted to the village’s sports club. Sjolund and added locals anniversary abatement bright out the summer’s weeds, prop the boards aback into place, and flood the amphitheatre to accomplish a breadth of ice.
“These boards accept taken some shots from me and a hell of a lot from Linus,” said Sjolund, continuing abreast the amphitheatre area. “We played a lot of amateur central those boards.”
Boston ‘felt actual right’
The developed adaptation of Ullmark, with 117 amateur on his NHL résumé forth with a 2.78 goals-against boilerplate and a .912 save percentage, now takes the job, decidedly its fettle requirements, actual seriously. He followed anniversary of his circadian on-ice sessions this summer in O-vik with dry-land training, about beneath the eye of a trainer at the adjacent “Training Studio” endemic by Jonas Franzen.
“His accomplished body, I’ve apparent him transform from a boy to a adolescent man,” said Franzen. “I anticipate we put added burden on him with aliment and diet and beddy-bye and bendability of training every day. We never accord him a day off. The key is consistency.”
Last division in Buffalo, a brace of acrimonious injuries, including one to a hamstring, bound Ullmark’s amphitheatre activity to 20 games. Sweeney said aloft signing Ullmark to the second-richest chargeless abettor accord in club history that he believed the Bruins’ medical agents would be able to advice Ullmark.
“Pre-hab and rehab,” said Ullmark. “It’s a process. I do it every day.”
Ullmark accustomed in Boston in aboriginal September and was absolutely able to bung appropriate into his new life. He and Moa, “thanks to a lot of buzz calls and the Internet,” he noted, purchased a home in the suburbs in August and pre-enrolled Harry in school.
When the Bruins fabricated him the action in July, Ullmark said, he acquainted a “tickle” and “butterflies in the stomach.” He admired Buffalo, admired the fans. But he afraid about the affecting abrasion and breach of blockage with a aggregation in abiding rebuild.
“When Boston came knocking, it acquainted right, it aloof acquainted actual right,” he said, sitting central MoDo’s home arena, some of the club’s teenagers active laps in the avenue afore convenance as he did bisected a lifetime ago.
“It was a aplomb booster that a top aggregation capital my services. It acquainted actual atonement that they appetite me to aces up the bake and accompany them, hopefully, to titles. That’s what we comedy for — to win the Cup.”
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