Growing up in Norway, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen didn't have too many ice hockey role models who had skated a path to follow to make it to the NHL.
Before Tollefsen debuted in Columbus in 2005-06, just three Norwegians had laced up skates at the highest level. Bjorn Skaare played just one game with Detroit in 1979, Anders Myrvold played in 33 contests for four different teams starting in 1995-96, and Espen Knutsen was the first to really make it big, starring for the Blue Jackets when the team arrived as an expansion outfit in 2000.
Nonetheless, while Tollefsen played sports like handball, skiing soccer and track and field growing up in Oslo, hockey was the sport that stuck with him.
"It was my buddy in kindergarten," Tollefsen said on the latest edition of Where Are They Now?, presented by Huntington Bank, when asked about how he got into the sport. "The rink was about a 15-20 minutes ride away, and as soon as I stepped on the ice -- it was a really small place -- I was loving the game. The whole time I was just having fun with different sports, when I had to choose, obviously I chose hockey."
That proved to be an astute choice for Tollefsen, who continues to be a memorable name and fan favorite that stands out from the first 20 years of NHL hockey in Columbus. The defenseman came to North America for junior hockey and ended up being a third-round pick in the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets, steadily moving up the ranks and joining the team in the post-lockout season of 2005-06.
He'd go on to skate in 145 games with the Blue Jackets over four seasons, totaling four goals, 10 points and 273 penalty minutes. An imposing figure at 6-2, 211 pounds, Tollefsen wasn't afraid to get his nose dirty, with a hard-charging style that made him so appreciated in Columbus, though one that likely shortened his tenure with the club because of injuries.
"I loved playing that way, and I was lucky enough that the fans liked that too," he said. "Obviously you try to impress someone in the start. I was throwing bombs right away, making those hits and stuff, but it was always fun. It was part of my game."
Check out the full 20th anniversary interview above, as Tollefsen talks about his memories of Columbus, playing with some notable names in CBJ history, and his current job trying to build the next wave of young Norwegian hockey players into NHLers.