(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
There are about 5,405 miles between Tempe, Arizona and Jonkoping, Sweden, the hometown of Arizona State defenseman Jakob Stridsberg.
While his roots lie in Europe, Stridsberg is living the American dream with Sun Devil hockey in the Southwestern United States.
“It’s very fun to go to college,” he said. “You see that in movies and stuff, but it’s really fun to be a part of that and get a good education.”
Just spending a few minutes with Stridsberg gives you the impression that he is loving his time in America.
Although it isn’t his first year in the States – he previously played in Fairbanks, Alaska – it is the first time he has been immersed in the college culture.
“I wanted to play college hockey and at the same time play at a good level of hockey,” he said. “You don’t have that opportunity in Sweden, unfortunately. ASU has a new program that I’m really excited to be a part of and it’s going to be really fun.
“I like Coach Powers. He’s a really good coach. I really like the new program. That was a huge part of my decision.”
The contrast between hockey in the U.S. and Sweden is stark. Stridsberg noted that the rinks in Sweden are much larger, making it a more tactical game.
His hockey career while in Sweden was a successful one. His team won the championship in his final two years with them.
Yet a big part of Stridsberg’s game on the ice is his physicality, which is why he enjoys the more American game, which he said relies more on being physical than hockey in Sweden.
More than anything, it has been Stridsberg’s huge stride with how quickly he has learned the English language that has impressed his teammates and coaches alike.
“I wouldn’t even notice he was from another country if you didn’t tell me,” assistant coach Alex Hicks remarked. “His English is great, that’s probably the biggest hurdle and I think growing up in Sweden, most of those kids watch American culture on TV and stuff, so I think he has done a great job.”
Hicks also mentioned that Stridsberg’s transition in regards to fitting in with the team has been smooth, especially because the language barrier hasn’t been quite the hindrance that it could be for some other international players.
While often times foreigners will consume American movies or TV shows to help them learn the language more, Stridsberg said he had an advantage of sorts in the respect because TV shows are already in English in Sweden.
“We learn English pretty early on so it’s not that big of a difference,” he said. “The culture is pretty different too, but you get used to it.”
By talking to Stridsberg, you get the sense that he has worked his way more and more into the American culture, as his accent has nearly completely vanished.
An additional aspect of the joy that is brought to Stridsberg about playing college hockey in Arizona is the ability to be part of the foundation for something special with the Sun Devils.
Along with teammate and roommate Georgy Gorodetsky, the two became the first ever players from outside North America to become Sun Devils.
Stridsberg’s gamble to go out of his comfort zone is filled with positives on the ice. He has made an immediate impact with the Sun Devils, playing in all nine games while netting a goal and an assist, in addition to 14 total blocks.
His Sun Devil career is just getting started, but as he immerses himself more and more with his team, home state, and country, Stridsberg could find himself as an ambassador for ASU to future international hockey players who want to come stateside.
“In my experience playing with Swedes in the past, they have all been good, solid citizens and that’s what we look for first,” Hicks said. “He was that and he’s been a great kid to coach and a big part of our program.”