This is an interview with new Cap Mattias Sjögren that aired on the Swedish radio station SR on a program called Lunchboxen. It’s a fairly long interview, I have included most of it in my translation, however I haven’t included all the things the radio host says. I also didn’t include the things that would have required my editorial notes explaining local traditions and events to be longer than the question and answerer combined. One final note, as with everything that is intended to be listened to but has been put in writing, the language sounds a bit strange at times.
SR: The deep disappointment you felt when Rögle was relegated from Elitserien turned into joy when you won the gold with Färjestad the next year. You played at the World Championship. Those things turned into a NHL contract that start in the fall, Landskrona’s second player in Washington. It’s the calm before the storm, Mattias Sjögren.
MS: Yes, in the autumn it begins for real. I’m looking forward to it but it will feel great to have a summer vacation; some time off of course but I also plan on doing some serious training.
SR: When do you leave for the States?
M: I’m not quiet sure but the main camp is in the middle of August. But I’m coming over for the rookie camp in the second week of July [Ed.note: Given the time frame, rookie camp means development camp].
SR: What’s a rookie camp?
MS: Many young guys, most are between 18-22 years old. They are there to test things out and show the coaches what they are made of. The reason I'm going is because the coaches wanted me to come over.
SR: So you are the old guy?
MS: Yeah, it will be a first for me being the oldest guy in the room.
SR: You have to watch your back at camps like that, I’m hearing it can be quiet a physical battle.
MS: Yeah there will probably be a lot of players there trying to be physical as a way show that they have what it takes. But that's okay, it’s just like it should be.
SR: Are you nervous about that?
MS: No, not yet but I’m sure I will get a little bit nervous before I get used to the new environment and my new teammates. But I’m sure everything will work out just fine.
SR: I’m thinking that just the fact that you never went through the draft and I shouldn’t say that you were a late bloomer, but you weren’t really on everyone’s radar either, and now when you had a good couple of years that have given you a lot of options and opportunities.
M: Yes, me not being drafted made me available to any team that wanted to sign me, and a lot of clubs were interested in me so I had a lot of options to choose from. In the end we decided to narrow down the potential clubs because it was too hard to make a decision otherwise. It was just not possible to visit with all the clubs. My agent and I visited some of the clubs to get a feel for them.
SR: So why did you decide to sign with the Capitals?
MS: It’s a good organization and they have a good team. I think I will have a good opportunity there. They already have lots of offensive players so I think it’s a good team for me
to be on when I try to break into the league.
SR: Everybody always talks about the great challenge it is but no one wants to talk about the money. Money is a big part of it, isn’t it?
MS: Yes, absolutely it’s a dream to play in the NHL. And the dream since I was a little kid has been to play in NHL and to make enough money so that I can live on it for the rest of my life, and it still is.
SR: Now when you are going to rookie camp you have to prove that you are good in preseason games and practices. It’s still possible that you have to play in the AHL.
MS: Yeah, it’s up to me to show what I have and prove that I belong there. If I don’t there is a risk that I will be sent down and that’s probably not a place you want to be for too long. You probably want to get up again as fast as possible.
SR: This camp you are talking about, what do they expect from you? Haven’t they scouted you enough? You have played at the World Championship.
MS: They want me to come over so I can learn their system. That’s why I’m being forced to come over to the rookie camp, they want to show me how they think and play. They want to see how I look in their system, if I can handle it.
SR: It’s a pretty big step for you. Is it bigger than going from Rögle to Färjestad?
MS: Yeah, definitely, but at some point you have to be ready to take that step too.
SR: Are you a late bloomer?
MS: Yes I think you can say that. I didn’t play that many games for the national team. I think I have 6 games with the national team and that was only with the U-20 team and never with one of the teams for younger players, and after that I played for three years in Elitserien before I got a chance to represent Sweden with Tre Kronor. So I think it’s fair to say that I’m a late bloomer.
SR: One of the segments here at Lunchboxen is that our guest gets to pick a song that says something about what kind of person you are. What song did you choose?
SR: Why did you choose this song, Mattias?
MS: It’s a good song that puts me in a good mood. I’m not much of a heavy metal fan usually but this song is great.
SR: You are the second player from Landskrona with Marcus Johansson on the team in Washington already. A world record of some kind...
MS: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome when you think about it. It was already great for Lejonet [Ed.Note: Lejonet is a small local club in Landskrona. It’s the first club for both Marcus Johansson and Mattias Sögren.] to have Mackan playing over there at such a young age. It’s great for the club to have two players from Landskrona.
SR: Do you know Marcus, he is a couple of years younger than you?
MS: I grew up with him. His brother Martin Johansson and I played hockey and soccer together and we also went to school together. Mackan was always hanging around us. He always wanted to compete with us and he was good back then too.
SR: Your development the last couple of years is quiet remarkable. What’s you explanation for your rapid improvement?
MS: I don’t really have a good explanation. I have just continued to work hard and I’ve been working on improving everything I can possibly think of. The last couple of years in the SEL, first with Rögle and then with Färjestad, the coaches really believed in me and gave lot of trust and confidence.
They wanted me to improve all parts of my game and they worked really hard with me to do it. Their trust in me made my self-confidence better and better which resulted in me playing better.
SR: In your own opinion what have you improved the most?
MS: I have always been good at the defensive and physical side of the game. I have always had the right attitude when it comes to those things. But this year in Färjestad I have improved the offensive side as well; things like holding on to the puck and making room for my teammates.
SR: I know you weren’t satisfied with the way you played the last two seasons with Rögle.
Especially in the first year of Rögle’s latest tenure in Elitserien, you thought that you didn’t score enough goals.
MS: Yeah I had a lot of chances. I always have a lot of chances, but I have never been much of a goal scorer. But I had mono in my first year in Elitserien and that held me back some. I had very high expectations for myself that season but in hindsight I think I did all right for an Elitserien rookie.
SR: But you did receive some criticism for not shooting enough.
MS: Yeah that sounds about right. I’m a pass before I shoot kind of guy.
SR: But you have a knack for scoring important goals.
MS: Yeah, I have scored some goals at least. One of my friends jokes and says that I only score important goals. But I think I have only scored one really big goal so far.
SR: The deciding goal in the game that made Rögle a SEL team again after a couple of years in Allsvenskan. How did it feel when that puck crossed the goal line?
MS: It felt fantastic. The crowd was incredible in that game and it was a such an important game.
SR: But it really wasn’t a great shot.
MS: No. I was aiming high and it went in under the glove hand, so it kind of fooled the goalie.
Honestly I kind of missed it but it went in so...
SR: It has to be your most important goal.
MS: I haven’t scored a lot important goals so of course that’s the most important one.
SR: And the party was worth remembering.
MS: Yes definitely. It was a great weekend.
SR: Did this year’s celebration of the SM-guld with Färjestad trump that?
MS: It’s impossible to compare them. Winning the gold with Färjestad and getting Rögle back in the SEL again were equally great. I can’t choose a favorite.
SR: Even though you won with Färjestad, your soul is still green and white? [Ed.note: Rögle’s colours]
MS: Absolutely. Rögle is the team that I grew up with and they gave me a chance to play at the highest level. So it’s definitely the team that is closest to my heart.
SR: Lejonet isn’t the biggest club in the world, how is it possible that they all of a sudden have two players in Washington Capitals?
MS: I guess it was just time. It’s great for the club and they are really happy for us.
SR: Landskrona is all about Landskrona BoIS. It’s more of a soccer town.
MS: Yes, soccer has meant a lot to me. I’m still a big soccer fan, I almost watch more soccer then I do hockey. Of course I’m a big Landskrona BoIS fan, even if they are going through a rough patch right now. You still have to support your hometown team.
SR: Did you do anything else growing up?
MS: No, it was all about hockey and soccer. I watch other sports on TV but those are the only two that I have been serious about.
SR: When did hockey win out over soccer?
MS: I think I was 14 or 15. We commuted between Landskrona and Ängelholm [Ed Note:Rögle play in Ängelholm] for one year. The year after that we started a hockey high school in Ängelholm and moved there. I got my training there and I had the opportunity to play with the big team from an early age, at 16-17, and that gave me an advantage compared to the other junior players that didn’t get to train and compete against men the way I did.
SR: When Rögle got relegated from Elitserien you moved on to Färjestad and in hindsight that was probably that best thing that could have happened for your career.
MS: I would have loved to succeed with Rögle and take a spot with Tre Kronor playing there, but it was not in the cards. It’s possible that I would have made the national team playing for Rögle. I know there were some talk, but I don’t know how close I actually was. When I finally made the national team I think I was an injury replacement. They had planned to include another player but when he got hurt I got my chance and took it. You need some luck too.
SR: Per Mårts has talked a lot in the media, even before you played with the national team, how important your type of play is for the national team.
MS: Yes, he has been very supportive and helped me a lot when I played with the national team and I did good there.
SR: But you are not a fighter.
MS: No. I’m a physical player but I’m not a fighter and I hope I can avoid it over there too.
SR: Do you think fighting is something that’s needed in hockey?
MS: In Sweden and Europe there isn’t a lot of fighting. But there is still a lot of toughness and physical play and the occasional dropping of the gloves as well. As it should be, that’s just a part of the game. To show emotion and stand your ground is a good thing especially in front of the cage. Hockey is a battle. There is a another culture in North America, they think that fighting is part of the game and it’s not up to me to change that. You have to adapt to the culture, but I don’t plan on becoming fighter.
SR: What are your expectations for next season?
MS: My expectations for myself are that I will take a spot on the team from the beginning of the season and that I won’t need to go down to the AHL. I’m crossing the pond with a lot of confidence and expect of myself that I will take a spot on the team right out of camp.
SR: Is it an advantage for you to have to Swedes on the team already?
MS: Yeah, I think that’s a good thing for me. It’s easier for me to talk about things I’m wondering about and they can tell me how things work over there. If they weren’t there I would have to ask someone I don’t know so that’s an advantage.
SR: Are you ready to face players that want to challenge you?
MS: No, not fully ready. I’m focusing on the things I can do like going on ice early and
being well prepared. If people wants to challenge me I will deal with that if and when it happens. It’s all part of the game.
SR: How do you train in the summer?
MS: I train with my personal trainer, Johan Karlsson, he’s an old wrestler from Helsingborg. He is working me really hard and I hope that that will be enough to make me well prepared. I will go on ice at rookie camp and after that I will ask Rögle if I can train with them. I’m pretty sure that there won’t be a problem for me to train with them.
SR: You are a really calm and nice guy. Are you too nice to play in NHL?
MS: How I am outside of the rink has nothing to do with how I am when I’m on the ice. Many of the players I played with in Färjestad this year I have played against in previous years and they certainly didn’t think I was that nice when they met me on the ice....
SR: Are you a trashtalker?
MS: No not really. I’m pretty quiet on the ice, sometimes I say something but mostly I just let my game do the talking.
SR: You are not a player that takes a lot of penalties. How many minutes did you have this year?
MS: I have no idea. I try to avoid taking penalties. There is absolutely no reason to take those unnecessary hooking and tripping penalties. If you play physical you don’t have to take those pointless PIM’s.
SR: Do you ever get really angry on the ice?
MS: Yes it happens a lot, I have a temper. Especially during games. I’m a totally different person during games. When I was younger I had a temper outside of the rink too but I calmed down some since then and now it only shows when I play.
SR: But I have seen you after loses and you are usually pretty grumpy.
MS: There is nothing worse than losing. And if you know you didn’t play your best game, you can be pretty pissed off for awhile.
SR: What are your strengths?
MS: Good question. I’m a team player first and foremost. I do everything for the team and always make sure I do my job.
MS: My lack of patience in certain situations, I need to trust myself when it comes to holding on to the puck. That’s something I work a lot on. If can teach myself to hold on to the puck longer I’ll be able to create more space on the ice for my teammates. If I can learn to hold on the the puck those extra seconds it will improve my game a lot.
SR: Just because you weren’t drafted do you think that you are more willing to train hard then someone that was drafted?
MS: It’s hard for me too answerer that. If you look at Mackan: he was drafted high and came over to NHL at a young age. He played on all of the junior national teams and I haven’t done any of those things. But that doesn't matter. All people that make the NHL know everything about hard work, otherwise they wouldn’t get there in the first place. It doesn't matter if you are 20 or 30, it is all about hard work.
SR: In light of that are you surprised about your recent success?
MS: Yeah, when I got to play with the national team last fall I was nervous at first because there were a lot of good players on that team. But when I realized that I was good enough to contribute at that level, I was really pleased with my performance and my self confidence improved a lot. But I have to say it’s been a fast ride this year.
SR: What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
MS: Going to the beach. Seeing my friends that I haven’t seen much of lately. Maybe going on a trip somewhere.
SR: But you have moved back to Skåne again after living in Karlstad when you played for Färjestad?
MS: Yes, I’m living in Landskrona again and that’s where I plan to live after my career is over. Karlstad is nice but Skåne is home.
SR: Do you know what you will do after you finished with hockey?
MS: That’s a good question. I really don’t know, a carpenter maybe? I’ll keep all doors open.
SR: World Championship, Stanley Cup and the Olympics. When your career is over will you have won them all?
MS: Winning all three of them sounds good to me. But just winning one of them would be incredible.
SR: What’s the one thing you want to avoid the most in the summer?
MS: Without a doubt bad weather.
SR: But in the States the weather is rather fickle. When it rains it rains a lot and when it’s hot it’s really hot.
MS: I think Washington has pretty good weather actually. When I was there it was really hot so I think it will be just fine.