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FLAMES EXTRA - BLOODLINES & BLUELINES

Growing up in a hockey-mad family, Rasmus Andersson took charge of his own path, and is now reaping the benefits as an everyday NHLer

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The coach had seen enough.

Or more to the point, had heard enough.

The dad, too.

"I remember one time I actually went out and had to lift him off the ice," chuckles Peter Andersson, from his home in Malmö, Sweden.

"Maybe it's more a part of the game these days, all the talking. Even today, he likes to talk, to be involved that way.

"He's that type of player. But I think there's a thin line you walk of what you can say and how you can behave.

"And when he was younger, he was way worse. I think he learned a big lesson from that moment.

"He was just a kid, 9 or 10 years old. A little disrespectful of referees and opponents. And I'm sure what I did embarrassed him.

"I remember taking his arm and saying: 'That's enough. You go take a shower.'"

In the ensuing years, Rasmus Andersson has dialled back the white noise a touch without totally sacrificing a highly useful degree of lip-service swagger, the memory of his younger, chattier on-ice self enough to elicit a forlorn shake of the head.

"Yeah, I had a bad habit of running my mouth at the refs," confesses the Flames' rookie defenceman.

"That's one of the important lessons my dad taught me: Respect. I used to get all kinds of 10-minute misconducts. Back then, I just could not be quiet.

"The worst thing, he'd tell us, is sitting in the box for doing something stupid, for an unnecessary reason. And he's right. I remember once getting a 10 on my first shift - my dad was late to the game - and I'm sitting there, thinking: 'Please, please, please don't let him get here before I get out of the box …'"

Our upbringing shapes our lives, our dreams, our ambitions.

And the Anderssons are one hockey-mad family.

Peter Andersson, drafted 73rd overall by the Rangers in 1983, suited up for 47 NHL games, for the New York and Florida Panthers, from 1992 to '94. He now coaches the Swedish league's Malmö Redhawks.

Oldest son Calle was also chosen by the Broadway Blueshirts, 119th in 2011, and spent two seasons with AHL New Haven before returning home to continue his career in Europe. He currently plays for SC Bern of the Swiss League.

Rasmus, of course, has found an every-game place on the Flames after being selected 53rd in the 2015 draft.

And - get this - all three are defencemen.

"Growing up," says Rasmus, "everything was hockey.

"We lived wherever my dad played. Sporting Malmö. Then we moved to Switzerland, Lugano, and lived there for four years. I was seven, eight, nine. Spoke fluent Italian - we were 40 minutes from Milan. Can't remember a word of it now.

"My dad was getting older and he thought it was important that we move back home so we could go to school in Malmö.

"So I grew up in rinks. It's like when Smitty brings his kids into the room. That was me. I loved being there. My mom tells a story about my dad leaving for practice - he was on a team that allowed the players to bring their kids to the rink whenever they wanted at the time - and trying to sneak out in the morning. I was sleeping. I woke up, for whatever reason, ran outside in my PJs and started screaming: 'Where are you going!?'

"My brother and I wound up going to practice."

Calle, now 24, and two years older, is in his second season at Bern.

"I've always thought my brother is a better player than me," says Rasmus. "I looked up to my dad but he retired when I was pretty young. So then I looked up to my brother … not that I can tell him that, right, being my brother.

"But how your older brother ties his skates? That's the way you tie them. How your older brother tapes his sticks? That's the way you tape them.

"One of the great times was my second pro season, when we got to play on the same team. I don't think it was handled well, to tell you the truth, they never put us out together for most of the year. So it was kinda like you were competing against your brother for ice time and I wasn't really comfortable with that. But the last six games we did play together. I had to take the left side because I was the youngest. He looked at me like: 'Well, that's the way it works.'

"And we played unreal together, as a pair."

Peter chose to end his NHL fling in the summer of '94, with a worrisome work stoppage looming. The season actually got going earlier than expected, after Christmas, but he'd already committed contractually to Malmö by then and never found his way back to North America.

"I chose security," he says today. "Do I think back and regret it sometimes? Yes. Yes, I do."

Calle, meanwhile, never received the opportunity to kick-start his career in Manhattan.

Which leaves Rasmus to maximize the NHL dream.

For openers, Saturday night against Vancouver he equalled his dad's NHL games aggregate.

"Right from the start,'' says Peter, "he was a talented kid. Always played against older guys. But as far as playing in the NHL …

"He talked about it when he was young but as a parent, you're kind of: 'Yeah. Yeah. Good. But there's a long way to go.'

"I think I saw just how serious he was about it when he said he wanted to go play junior in Canada. We have really good junior hockey here, lots of guys who reach the NHL being taught the Swedish way.

"But he talked about going to Canada, even one or two years before he actually went to Barrie. I wasn't stopping him, exactly, but … he talked me into it. I said: 'Are you sure?' And he said: 'Yes, I am.'

"He picked his own way, took charge of his own direction, which I think is pretty strong-minded for a young kid.

"And turns out he chose the right way for him."

Rasmus has always been ahead of the curve. He played his first pro game at age 15, mentored by old pros Johan Björk ("Without him I probably wouldn't be where I am today") and Thomas Kollar.

He had the courage, as dad points out, to move away from home, far from home, in order to better facilitate his NHL ambition.

"At the time, just before I left for Barrie, I was thinking: 'I'm going to play in Canada. This is so great. So sick,'" admits Andersson. "But the closer it gets, the more nervous you get. When I left my mom and my sister at the airport, my only thought was: 'OK. Take a deep breath. You've got to pull this off.'

"I'm so lucky. I had my dad and my brother to look up to for hockey.

"And my mom (Maritha) is probably the one who deserves the most credit and gets the least. She didn't miss a game, drove us everywhere. My dad was away playing and she looked after three kids - me, my brother and my sister.

"I can't thank her enough. She's my motivation, my inspiration."

Only 22, the possibilities are just beginning to open up for Rasmus.

Along with fellow apple-cheekers Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington, he represents a bright, blue horizon for the Calgary defensive corps.

Maybe the most difficult thing that can be asked of any dad/coach is to separate the bloodlines from the bluelines when offering a balanced analysis.

But Peter - who played the position at the highest level, remember - is willing to give it a go.

"What I see in Rasmus," he replies after a long pause, "is a pretty skilled, puck-moving defenceman who can be good in both ends. He's learning the defensive side of the game.

"I see a guy who can make a good first pass out of his own end, has good offensive instincts - can shoot the puck really well, make plays and hopefully in the future he can help out on the powerplay.

"I believe in giving young players a chance. And they're doing that in Calgary.

"Obviously, I'm very, very proud of him. Very happy for him.

"We all are."

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