MONTREAL - Shortly before returning to Montreal for training camp in August, Jacob de la Rose made a unique investment back home.
The 22-year-old forward and good friend Patric Skoglund purchased a five-year-old female Italian race horse, Trilly of Nando, before convincing fellow Swede Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators to the join the ownership group.
What began for de la Rose as a simple interest in going to the track with his buddies and making a few friendly wagers during the offseason eventually sparked a desire to take things up a notch in the harness racing world.
"Patric is from Leksand, where Filip and I played. He owns eight horses and he's one of the biggest experts in Sweden, so we talked a lot about it. I told him that if he heard anything about a horse, I was interested in buying one. It seemed like a lot of fun," recalled de la Rose, who didn't have to wait long for Patric's call. "A couple of days later, he said he'd found one he thought would be really good."
When de la Rose saw footage of Trilly at work on YouTube, there was no question he wanted in.
"The race we saw, she won with like 300 meters to go. She was just dominating," said the four-year NHL veteran. "When we got her, she was racing in Italy and Austria and the tracks there aren't as good as they are in Sweden, so we thought that if she had really good times there, she'd have even better times with a good trainer and good tracks in Sweden."
Trilly's results since arriving in Scandinavia speak for themselves, picking up three wins in six starts - and de la Rose couldn't be prouder.
"My heart rate goes up and I just start yelling, especially on the last lap. You should see me during the race. I'm like standing up and screaming," said de la Rose, who follows Trilly's races online on his iPad during the hockey season. "They're usually on game days, though, around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. here, so it's been hard for me to nap because I'm so excited for the race."
The Arvika native's Montreal teammates have also climbed aboard the Trilly train.
"They love it. The boys are pumped. I always tell them when there's a new race coming up," he said, recounting a bus trip in the nation's capital in December that turned into a team viewing party. "When we were in Ottawa for the outdoor game, on our way to practice I put up her race on my phone and everyone started watching. Snowstorms delayed the race, so we couldn't see it. It was kind of a buzzkill, but at least she ended up winning it in the end."
Likewise, de la Rose's family members enjoy cheering Trilly on every chance they get, despite being a little skeptical about the venture out of the gate.
"When I first told my family that I was buying a horse, they just laughed. But I've gotten them all into it," he said. "Now every time there's a race, my uncles, my grandma, my grandfather, they're all watching."
Despite his passion for his new project, de la Rose still hasn't had a chance to meet Trilly in the flesh - something he'll do immediately upon returning home in the offseason.
In the meantime, he keeps in constant contact with Patric and Filip to help plan her racing itinerary and make sure she has everything she needs to be healthy and happy under the watchful eye of her trainer, Sofia Aronsson, in Sweden.
"We're always trying to find the best races possible for her. There's a Web site where you can see the upcoming races for the month ahead, so we all get together on FaceTime and go through them, seeing what other horses are competing in each race," concluded de la Rose. "I'm still really new to this, so Filip and I ask Patric like 30 questions a week. He's happy to answer. He really likes getting us involved."