After missing the first 10 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, Carl Hagelin has re-emerged as one of the top two-way forwards on the New York Rangers and has bolstered the team's top-six forward group since his return. What's more impressive is his college degree, his interest in the finance world and his proactive approach to securing a career post-hockey. Hagelin is wise beyond his years, especially when it comes to playing in outdoor games. He took time this week to discuss outdoor ice, venture capitalism and a pretty amazing celebration in Sweden that we're all missing out on.
Kathryn Tappen: You were born in Sweden. Tell me about growing up there and playing hockey as a young kid.
Carl Hagelin: I come from a family where my dad was a huge hockey fan. I have a brother who is four years older than me. He played hockey for a long time and now he's a scout for the Calgary Flames. Being surrounded by hockey, I got forced into it as a kid. I started skating when I was 4 and had a rink only 10 minutes from my home. In my town we had one outdoor rink and one indoor rink, so you could skate all year long. I lived by a lake too, so we did a lot of skating on the lake. In my country soccer was always the No. 1 sport, but I liked hockey a lot more.
KT: When did you move to the United States?
CH: I finished high school, and at the end of that summer I came over to the U.S. to attend the University of Michigan.
KT: When did you learn how to speak English?
CH: You start taking English class back home in third grade. You learn some words. But my sister went to college in the U.S. [Webber International University in Babson Park, Fla.], so I came over here quite a bit to visit her. I went to hockey camp at Michigan because my dad has some relatives in the Ann Arbor area. We went to visit them as kids and you start to learn the language from being around people. At the same time, when I got to college I thought my English was better than it really was. I learned a lot over my four years.
KT: What does it mean to you to be the first Swedish player to play hockey at Michigan, and serve as a captain?
CH: It is something I'm proud of. I tried to go my own way. A lot of people back home go pro at a very young age. I was able to go to such a great school with a lot of history. Being able to play hockey my first year was something special to me.
KT: Your first job was a coach at a summer camp in Sweden. What kind of coach were you?
CH: It was more of an athletic summer camp for kids between ages 7-10. I was 13 so I was one of the camp counselors. We did all kinds of sports: Tennis, running, dodge ball. We did everything. It was a great way to get a good tan in the summer.
KT: Your next job was a bit different. You interned in college at a financial firm.
CH: I majored in sports business at Michigan. But it all started with my sister. She got her MBA in Monaco about 10 years before I was in school. One of the guys she studied with there lives in Ann Arbor. When I went to college he took me under his wing and took care of me. My senior year, second semester, I only took one class because I was ahead [in credits]. So I asked him if I could learn a little bit more about his business. He's a venture capitalist. The last semester I interned at his investment firm, Amherst Fund. I learned a lot and kept in touch with him; I still do. I'm currently involved with one of his companies.
KT: Finance is like a foreign language to me. What kind of work were you involved with at the firm?
CH: (laughs) We had a couple of companies we had an eye on. They were looking at one in particular for just real-estate space, how much they could charge, because they had a lot of different buildings they wanted to rent out. Overall, analysis of a company they just bought. We did a lot of analyzing of companies to see if they were worth buying or not. I keep in touch with them to make sure I still know what's going on. Obviously I can't do a lot since I'm playing hockey, but it's definitely something I want to get into when I am done playing.
KT: Well you're certainly in the best place to be staying on top of the finance world, playing in New York City.
CH: There are a lot of great opportunities here. As a hockey player, playing for an Original Six team at Madison Square Garden, where it's packed every night, there's nothing like it.
KT: It sounds like you had things figured out with what you wanted to do when you graduated Michigan. So what was it like when the New York Rangers drafted you in 2007 in the sixth round?
CH: It was actually the year after I was draft eligible. I didn't have any thoughts about getting drafted. I get a phone call on the day after Sweden's Midsummer, which is a big day back home where we celebrate with our families and party all day. I don't remember exactly who called me, but they said I got drafted by the Rangers. Obviously it was a great feeling. My dad opened a bottle of champagne, everyone was excited. It was a special moment.
KT: Tell me more about this Midsummer celebration in Sweden.
Swedish midsummer celebration!! pic.twitter.com/rEpj6E5xwk— Carl Hagelin (@CarlHagelin) June 21, 2013
CH: It's called Midsummer because we celebrate the longest day of the year. A lot of families get together, neighbors and all. We play a soccer game in the morning, the young kids against the adults. Then everyone regroups and meets up for lunch. We eat traditional Swedish food, like Swedish meatballs and herring. After that we play games for a good two, three hours. Then we dance around the pole and sing different weird Swedish songs and then barbeque at night.
KT: Sounds like I need to make my way to Sweden.
CH: It's a lot of fun. It never gets dark at night so you stay up all evening. It's a good time.
KT: You are very familiar to playing outdoor games. Not just from your childhood; you played in two outdoor games while at Michigan.
CH: I had my first one against Wisconsin my junior year. My senior year we played Michigan State, our big rival, at the Big House [Michigan Stadium]. We ended up winning 5-0 and it was probably the best atmosphere I've ever been a part of. A hundred-thousand people screaming; it was like a giant wave coming down at you with all the noise. There were great Michigan chants. I was fortunate to have my whole family there, and other Swedish fans wearing jerseys from Sweden at the game, so it felt like being home.
KT: Then you know better than anyone what Detroit and Toronto are in for this upcoming Winter Classic?
CH: It's going to be insane. Being in the NHL and not college, it's going to be an even better atmosphere.
CH: If I play in the [2014 Coors Light NHL] Stadium Series in January it will be my fourth and fifth outdoor games. The hype is incredible for these games. But at the same time it's another game and another two points. There is so much leading up to the game itself and a lot of emotions. I've been to Yankee Stadium for a couple of baseball games. It's always such a great atmosphere and a beautiful venue. It's going to be cool to be a part of it, that's for sure.
KT: Who is the hardest player to play against in the NHL?
CH: [Boston Bruins captain Zdeno] Chara. You can't get a step on him and he's got such a long stick and is able to reach that puck.
KT: What is one of your favorite hobbies outside of hockey?
CH: I love to play tennis. I play a lot in the summer. I'm not a big golfer; I need something a bit more intense. I was actually at the last U.S. Open final between [Novak] Djokovic and [Rafael] Nadal. I try to watch as much as I can. My favorite tennis player is Roger Federer.