By Kerry Collins, Published April 13 2009
U18 hockey: Samuelsson bides two team loyalties
Samuelsson played for two of the countries in the IIHF World U18 Championships this season.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound defenseman is patrolling the blue line for the United States at the World U18s, but he also played for Sweden at an exhibition tournament back in November.
“I just like to play hockey, so when these opportunities kept coming up, I kept jumping at the chance to play,” Samuelsson said. “I’m not going to say no.”
Samuelsson has dual citizenship because he was born in Sweden and lives in the United States.
Oddly enough, he played for Sweden at the U18 Four Nations Tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., in November. Then in February, he played for Team USA at another Four Nations tourney in Sweden.
He could play for both countries because the IIHF recognized the Four Nations tournaments as exhibitions.
“We really liked the way he played, and he is so smart out there,” U.S. coach Ron Rolston said. “We knew he would be able to step in for us and be a big part of this team because he’s been in competitive situations night in and night out in the USHL.”
Samuelsson is not a big threat on offense – he didn’t score a goal in 54 games this season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel – but he’s as steady as the come on defense.
He is the only USHL player on Team USA’s roster. However, it didn’t take him long to fit in with the group.
“When you get a defensive partner, he’s the one you want to have,” Rolston said. “His positioning with the puck and defensive stick really calms the game down.
“He has a sense out there where he’s one thought ahead of most players.”
Samuelsson’s stint on the international stage is going better than his family’s last trip.
The 17-year-old is the son of former NHLer Ulf Samuelsson – who went to the 1998 Olympics in Nagano with the Swedish national team.
Midway through those Winter Games, Ulf Samuelsson was sent home by his country after they found out he had an American passport. According to Swedish law back then, that nullified his Swedish citizenship.
“It was a Swedish rule, and it was just kind of a weird rule,” Philip Samuelsson said with a laugh. “He was from there, but was living in the United States because he was playing there.
“It made sense to have two passports, but not to Sweden, I guess.”
Ulf Samuelsson is now an associate coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, and has obviously been a huge influence on his son’s game.
Philip said that his father keeps close tabs on his son’s progress in the USHL thanks to the B2 Networks feeds via the internet.
“Growing up around him and always getting advice after games is priceless,” Philip said.
“I still get feedback from him, and he watches almost all of my games. It’s good to get that individual attention, and he knows what he’s talking about.
“You can’t put a number on what his influence has meant.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548. Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com