Profiles

Hockey has taken Fredrik Olofsson ‘a lot of places’

Fredrik Olofsson
Though born in Helsingborg, Sweden, Fredrik Olofsson has grown to identify suburban Denver has his home since moving there in his early adolescence. (Photo by Mark Kuhlmann/Omaha Athletics)

Frequent travel and relocation are a way of life for Fredrik Olofsson. In some cases, he moved from place to place with his family. In other instances, he moved by himself to play hockey. Either way, these experiences have allowed him to enjoy trying new things and experiencing different parts of the world, which he now actively seeks in his spare time.

The native Swede’s first instance of traveling came when his family spent some time in Germany when he was a young child, though he does not remember much about living there. He then spent his grade-school years in his home country. This time proved to be invaluable as far as preparing him for his future, both in terms of hockey and life in America.

In eighth grade, Olofsson and his family moved to Colorado. This meant he had to adjust to a new high school and make new friends, all while adapting to a new culture. Luckily, the transition was relatively easy thanks to his upbringing in the Swedish education system.

“In Sweden you learn English in grade school, so I was very familiar with the language, and picked it up pretty quickly,” he explained to Pucks and Recreation. “Now our family kind of speaks both, a mix. Every now and then it kind of goes faster with the Swedish, but then there are some words that you kind of forget in Swedish that you have to say in English.”

Olofsson quickly settled into his new home, joining the Colorado Thunderbirds to play travel hockey, progressing through the ranks in his new state, then making the jump to the USHL and getting drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. He is now a rising junior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

‘…it’s a lot more diverse than you think’

Throughout his progression through various levels of hockey, travel has been a constant, which Olofsson has embraced. The experiences have opened his eyes as far as all the country has to offer. Having grown up across the Atlantic Ocean, his previous impressions of his adopted nation were shaped by stereotypes.

“You definitely hear a lot about the bigger cities,” he remarked. “You don’t really get the gist of the (country). I don’t think I’d ever heard a country song until I came to here to the United States. It’s just stuff like that.

“There’s a lot more to it. It’s a lot more diverse than you think. It took me and my family in with open arms, and we’ve been able to grow as a family and get to pursue what we want.”

Living throughout the country has also introduced him to new sports like football. Olofsson was also particularly surprising to see that Americans begin driving at such young ages, compared to Sweden where one cannot start until their early twenties.

Olofsson, who now lists the Denver suburb of Broomfield as his hometown, has been able to form his own opinions about the various parts of the country, different than the stereotypes he grew up learning. The family moved to an area of Colorado that was experiencing a period of growth at the time. This was a far cry from what he had grown up with in Sweden, where houses were more unique, but something he has come to enjoy.

When it came time to move away from home to take his next step for hockey, he took to Green Bay, Wis., which felt much smaller than his Colorado home, even though the place is often perceived as a larger city.

Fredrik Olofsson

(Photo by Mark Kuhlmann/Omaha Athletics)

“Usually when you hear of Green Bay you think it’s a lot bigger,” Olofsson said, “but it’s a lot of just Packer football, and to me it felt like that was mostly it. It had kind of a small-town feel living in a one-story house with some great people that billeted me.”

‘Hockey has taken me a lot of places…’

After parts of two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers, Olofsson’s next stop in the USHL was with the Chicago Steel. The bigger city reminded him of living in Colorado, as it was more modernized than what he had experienced in Green Bay. For the past two years, going to school on UNO’s 683-acre campus in a city of over 400,000 people has allowed him to experience the best of both worlds.

“You get the small, tight community with our athletic program and the school, and if you want to branch out and do other things, there’s plenty of things to do in Omaha, which is a really nice mix,” he remarked.

While hockey has changed where Olofsson calls “home” in recent years, it has also allowed him to see many different parts of America. He has travelled with his teams to play in various games and tournaments. In days with the Thunderbirds, he saw action in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Dallas and many Midwestern locations.

“Hockey has taken me a lot of places, and you get to see a lot of things because of the sport and what you do, so I’ve been pretty grateful for that,” he reflected.

Now that he is playing college hockey, the travel obviously continues. His team is in the NCHC, with teams as far west as Colorado, east as Ohio and north as North Dakota, so road trips are common and often long.

This has allowed Olofsson to soak in more unique environments across the college hockey landscape. Many have stood out, including nonconference trips to Vermont and Wisconsin and the NCHC matchup with his “hometown” team of Denver.

However, one venue, Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., is his decided favorite to play in.

“It would have to be North Dakota,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular. They have a crazy student section, loud arena and an NHL-type atmosphere. It’s definitely a hostile place to play, but when you get to score a goal or win a game and the crowd goes silent, it’s a pretty cool feeling.”

The Mavericks have a record of 2-2 at “The Ralph” since Olofsson has been a member, and he scored in one of their appearances this year, so he certainly knows how cool of a feeling that is.

‘Everything out there is just a nice change of pace’

His travel has not been limited to hockey, however. His family has made a point of taking trips during the offseason for Fredrik and his older brother Gustav. This normally entails Northern Europe.

“In the summers we always go to the south of Sweden, back where I was born in a town called Helsingborg,” he explained. “That’s where my grandparents live. It’s amazing, some of the regional foods they have there are great, and we always make a little trip up to Denmark.

“It’s a great experience. Everything out there is just a nice change of pace.”

While Northern Europe is their frequent destination, other cities are always on the family’s radar. One city is particularly intriguing to Olofsson: Paris, as he shared with the Blackhawks website shortly after being drafted by the club in 2014.

“The culture is definitely a lot different,” he elaborated. “From transportation, to how everything looks: houses, food, portions. Everything is different. It’s fun to try new things, and that’s why I want to explore that.”

‘…definitely go for it’

While locations throughout his life have been inconsistent, one major constant has been his family. Fredrik has been particularly influenced by Gustav, who has led him along the way in his career. Gustav played for the Thunderbirds and the Gamblers, and Fredrik would follow his path to both programs.

Gustav went on to play two years at Colorado College before turning pro with the Minnesota Wild, the team that had drafted him in the second round in 2013.

“He’s pretty much been my role model throughout my life,” Fredrik reflected. “We moved a lot so I didn’t necessarily have the most stable friendships, so he’s the one I grew up with.

“He does everything so well, he takes care of himself and the people around him, and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Along with his brother, his parents have steadfastly supported his progress through the ranks. Their willingness to allow Olofsson to play hockey from a young age and to travel so much has proved mutually beneficial for Olofsson and his parents, and has created a lasting impact on their lives.

“The sport (hockey), it’s awesome the places it can take you and the people you can meet,” Fredrik remarked. “I know hockey growing up isn’t the cheapest sport as a parent to have your kid play, but if you have the change to travel around or have your kid do it, definitely go for it.

“I know my parents probably didn’t like most of the traveling they did, but I’m so thankful they put up with it, and the people they’ve met through it, as have I, are still a part of our lives, so it’s definitely a cool thing.”

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Andrew Wisneski

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