Andreas Martinsen comes from snow country, where skiing of any kind reigns supreme. Why, then, did he go against the grain and pick hockey, a sport that no one but him was playing at school?
"As a kid, everyone skied, and I was skiing too, but it wasn't really my thing. I always preferred team sports," he explained. "My favorite sport was soccer until I started playing hockey when I was eight years old."
The Norwegian fit both soccer and hockey into his schedule - even in winter - until age 16, which didn't leave him much time to ski. That was fine for Martinsen, who wasn't too thrilled with the long outings that are characteristic of cross-country skiing.
"To get into cross-country skiing, you have to be a little nuts. You're going into the woods, pushing yourself to your limit. It wasn't really for me," he admitted. "I like to have fun playing sports and I didn't really see how I could have fun skiing; it's so tough, and so long!"
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Martinsen doesn't exactly have the perfect build to go up against the skiing greats, either.
"It would be tough for me, I'd have to lose a lot of weight! I don't think I'm built for skiing," confided the native of Bærum, a suburb of Oslo. "Maybe for downhill, but definitely not cross-country skiing."
That said, just because Martinsen doesn't like practicing the sport, doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate it. He'll watch international competitions whenever he can, be it downhill or cross-country. After all, skiing is the national sport in Norway; skiers are big stars, and fans are glued to their TVs following them.
"Skiing is like hockey in Canada. Everyone watches it, everyone likes it," Martinsen recounted. "We say that Norwegians are born with skis attached to their legs and we often win competitions, so that's why people watch."
There are only two Norwegians in the NHL, the other being the New York Rangers' Mats Zuccarello - who is also a star back home, according to his fellow countryman.
"Zuccharello has become as popular as the skiers. It's good for hockey there. But I think the skiers will always be the big stars, along with the soccer players," Martinsen admitted. "Norwegians are proud of their skiers."
In picking hockey over skiing, Martinsen is the exception to the rule in Norway, which would make cross-country skier Alex Harvey his Canadian counterpart, of sorts. The Quebecer recently won gold in the 50 km Nordic World Ski Championships. Of course, the favorite in that race was a Norwegian, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, but he ended up just off the podium in fourth place.
Martin watched the race live and, as a result, was very happy to get to meet Harvey - even if he beat one of his fellow Norwegians to become world champion - when the skier came for a short visit to the Habs' dressing room after a game, towards the end of last season.
"I knew who he was. He's very well-known in Norway. It was nice to meet him," recalled Martinsen. "Normally, it's the Norwegians versus the Swedes, the Russians, the Finns, so it was nice to see a North American do so well."
And what did the two athletes talk about, skiing or hockey?
"Both! I asked him why he didn't play hockey and he asked me why I didn't ski. It's funny that we're kind of the opposite," Martinsen elaborated. "In Canada, everyone plays hockey instead of skiing and I'm from Norway and I picked hockey over skiing, so it was funny."