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Coming To America

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The road that would eventually lead Norway native Jonas Holos to the Avalanche’s 2010 rookie orientation camp started inconspicuously enough.

One day (June 21, 2008 to be exact), out of the blue, a reporter from a television station in Norway called and informed Holos that he had been selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. With the NHL Draft the furthest thing from his mind at the time, Holos was pleasantly surprised, if not caught off guard a bit.

“I was surprised because I didn’t expect it at all,” said Holos. “He (the reporter) said ‘Congratulations’ and I said ‘For what?’ Then he told me that I had been drafted by the Colorado Avalanche and I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ I didn’t expect it, so it was fun.”

The Avalanche selected Holos with the 170th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Since then, Holos’ profile in the international hockey scene has grown by leaps and bounds. He had already been a member of the Norwegian National Team’s defensive corps at three World Championships and a World Junior Championship to that point, and has since turned into one of the most valuable members of the squad at the last two World Championships, as well as the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

At those events, Holos has been a workhorse for Norway teams that don’t typically have as much high-level talent as many of their opponents. At the Vancouver Olympics, he led the entire tournament by averaging 28:56 of ice time in four contests and also finished with one assist.

“It was an honor and to play in the Olympics is huge,” said Holos. “That’s one of the strongest memories I have of hockey so far. The first game against Canada, the crowd and stuff was awesome.”

That performance at the Olympics was no fluke, as the defenseman has typically been among the ice-time leaders at international events during the past few years. At the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany, for example, Holos tallied a goal and one assist while averaging a tournament-high 27:45 of ice time in six games.

It’s safe to say he’s come a long way from his days as an amateur in Norway, where he needed to work a side job in addition to playing hockey at the highest level his country had to offer.

Being a skilled player in a land not traditionally known for churning out NHL talent, Holos began playing for Sparta Sarpsborg in the Norwegian Elite League at the tender age of 17. And if it wasn’t tough enough playing hockey against grown men at such a young age, Holos also had to spend his afternoons bringing soap and other cleaning supplies to his co-workers.

“I had to work three or four hours every day and I lived at home with my mom and dad,” said Holos. “I was doing cleaning work, but I didn’t clean. I just delivered soaps and mops and stuff. I drove around and delivered cleaning stuff. That’s the big difference. In Norway I had to work besides playing hockey. I wasn’t a professional.”

For the 2008-09 season, Holos decided the best thing for his career would be to make the move to Sweden, where he would play the next two years for Farjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League. He believed that playing in one of the most revered professional leagues outside of the NHL would help him further his career much more than staying in his native Norway.

It didn’t take long for him to make an impact in Sweden either, as he ranked first among team defensemen in goals (8) and second in points (8) in his first campaign as Farjestads claimed both regular season and playoff titles.

After his two seasons in Sweden, Holos decided – in conjunction with the Avalanche organization – that the time was right for the blueliner to head to North America. He signed an entry-level deal on May 26, and is currently in the United States for just the second time in his life (he had previously taken a vacation in Florida) to attend the Avalanche’s rookie orientation and training camps.

“I got an offer and I felt like when I got the chance I had to take it,” said Holos. “That’s what I want to do. That’s the dream, to play in the NHL.”

Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But if it does, Holos will continue what’s quickly becoming a trend and join the likes of Kyle Cumiskey (seventh round, 222nd overall in 2005), David Jones (ninth round, 288th overall in 2003), Justin Mercier (sixth round, 168th overall in 2005) and Brandon Yip (eighth round, 239th overall in 2004), as Avalanche late-round picks to reach the NHL level.

And this time he won’t even have to worry about bringing the soap.
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