Perhaps there is a “Nuke” Laloosh in the Sweden’s pop culture. If there is, be assured St. John’s IceCaps winger Carl Klingberg is not a devotee.
At least not to the Laloosh at the end of the movie Bull Durham, the young pitcher who has made it all the way to baseball’s major leagues and once there, dutifully spews the standard, meaningless quotes — “I'm just happy to be here,” “Give 110 percent,” and “I’m here to help the team anyway I can,” — taught to him by his minor-league mentor, “Crash” Davis.
Klingberg says what he thinks and says it well. He’s not exactly flaky, but he’s far from unleavened bread. He’s interested and interesting. And the 21-year-old Swede is embracing life on this side of the Atlantic and the employment that has brought him here.
One of the Winnipeg Jets’ top prospects, he’s already appeared in six games for the National Hockey League Jets in the last few months, but this really has been a season of acclimation in St. John’s. Heading into St. John’s contest in Hershey against the Bears tonight, Klingberg has appeared in 55 games with the IceCaps, is the AHL team’s rookie points leader and sits third in goal-scoring on the club.
His points production has dipped in the second half of the season, but IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge does not see this as an indication Klingberg has hit the wall that so often appears for European or college players during their first season in the AHL or NHL, with their much busier schedules. Klingberg’s has plus-minus is a very respectable plus-eight — it’s been around there most of the 2011-12 campaign — and as he himself points out, he appeared in over 60 games last season with five different pro teams on both sides of “The Pond” and internationally for Sweden.
“The difference is this is with same team all the time, the same league all the time,” said Klingberg. “You have to always make sure you’re prepared and not getting too comfortable because things are always the same.
“But that’s a test for every player coming into this league.”
“I must say I like it better over here, even if it also takes more energy out of you. You need to stay focused every game, ready to go to work.”
Klingberg — as has every Swedish player who has played hockey in St. John’s — speaks very good English. He also posts bilingually on his Twitter account (@CarlKlingberg) and has reached a point where he doesn’t “care if there are subtitles,” in the movies he watches.
“We start learning English early in school, around the third or fourth grade,” he said. “But I never thought it was important to learn it just because I thought I would come here.
“I knew I was going to use it even if I wasn’t a hockey player. I’d probably use it travelling and on vacations, things like that.”
Klingberg says the biggest boost to the English he uses these days came when he was around 16. That when he travelled from Sweden to Toronto for a summer hockey camp.
“The English I learned in school was British English and that’s not the same. But that was two-and-a-half weeks in Toronto by myself and it was perfect,” he recalled.
“Of course my background of English in my school helped, but I learned more that time han I did in 10 years in school.”
A half-decade later, that Toronto experience is really paying off.
“I didn’t know that I’d live over here and talk English most of the day every day,” said Klingberg.
“That’s been an experience, for sure. Sometimes, it feels like English is my first language.”
But he laughs and quickly shakes his head when asked if it’s come to the point where he’s thinking in English on the ice during games.
“I don’t know even what language I’m thinking in,” he said with a big gapped-tooth smile.
“But I am thinking,” he quickly added.
The KLINGBERG FILE
Born: Jan. 28, 1991 in Gothenburg, Sweden
Drafted: In the second round, 34th overall, by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009
Notes: Klingberg is the oldest of three brothers. John, who turns 20 this August, was drafted 131st overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. John and 14-year-old Olle are both defencemen ... A product of Frolunda’s system (his father Anders was an assistant coach with Frolunda’s under-16 team), Klingberg made his debut in the Swedish Elite League, his country’s top pro league, as a 17-year-old ... Twice played with Sweden’s world junior team, winning a silver medal in 2009 and a bronze in 2010. The Klingberg family has a complete set of world junior medals as John won gold as part of Sweden’s championship team earlier this year ... Has appeared in nearly 70 international junior games for Sweden ... The consensus among NHL scouts before his draft year went pretty much like this: “a North American player in a Swedish body” ....
from HIS IceCaps’ biographical info
Favourite pre-game meal: Pasta and meat sauce
Must-see TV shows: How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy
Favourite person to follow on Twitter and why: @Theresej. She’s my girl. Good to be updated.
Favourite hockey player growing up and why: Mats Sundin. Had him in a glassed-in hockey card.
Nicknames: Klinger. Crazy Carl. Hot Carl. Because it’s easy and it’s something about my name.
Favourite off-season pursuits: Travel and seeing friends and family. Training of course.
If you weren’t a hockey player. what would you be: Don’t know. I got good grades, so whatever I could find out, I’d probably be.
Favourite part of being a hockey player: You do what you love all the time and get paid $ for it.
Superstition: Has a smiley on the knob of his stick.
Favourite ice cream flavour: Chocolate
What people don’t know about the life of a pro: A lot of time spent on (developing your) career, not only at the rink.
Song, singers and/or band splayed the most on your iPod: Axwell, Avicii, Steve Angello
First real job: Hockey player