On 2 May Gothenburg team Frölunda Indians won the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) title after a 4-2 series win over Stockholm rivals Djurgården IF.
That the Indians winning team contained five North Americans (including three Canadians) is not so surprising. But that both Americans come from California’s sun-soaked, surfing mecca Orange County and both are confessing Christians certainly doesn’t fit the norm for the profile of a successful hockey player.
But success has followed these two players, wherever they have gone.
Born in Lake Forest, CA. in 1987, Ryan Lasch, has now played five of the last seven seasons in Sweden.
Like many emerging pros, Lasch’s early career saw him bouncing between leagues in Europe and North America as he sought to establish himself and hone his skills. In 2012 it looked like that he might get the much sought after dream ticket of playing in the NHL after becoming the first native of Orange County to be signed by local club, the Anaheim Ducks.
But at only 5’7″ (170 cm) his size was probably never suited to the more physical North American game and the larger European rinks gave him a chance to use his speed and agility to duck and dive out of tackles and develop into a potent goalmouth threat.
He maybe one of the shortest players in the SHL he is not short of trophies and accolades.
This year he picked up top scorer in the pan-European club competition, the Champions Hockey League (CHL), top scorer in the SHL Regular Season and the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy as the Playoff MVP.
But Lasch himself says it is not really points he is after, but titles. In which case this year should count as a great success- for the second time in four years Frölunda are double SHL and CHL champions- a feat no other European club has ever achieved.
Rhett Rakhshani‘s route to Swedish success is the result of a steady move eastward from Huntington Beach, CA. where he was born one year after Lasch. He moved from the Pacific coast, to the University of Denver and then to his first professional contract in 2010 on the Atlantic coast in Bridgeport, CT.
But his rise up the career ladder suddenly came to an abrupt end. Rakhshani was a success in Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but he was unable to register a single point in his NHL games with the New York Islanders.
At only 24 years old age, Rakhshani found himself at a crossroads in his career – continue in the AHL and hope to be one of the few to gain a ”veteran” contract or move to Europe and hope to adjust and establish himself on a different continent.
He took the risk to go further east, not as far as his grandfather’s homeland in Iran, but to Sweden, where he has been ever since.
The gamble sees to have paid off as 31 year old Rakhshani, with the classic hockey player’s toothless grin, has now won his second SHL championship in four years.