Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson has seen it all in his lifetime of hockey, both as a player and now as a coach. But one thing he loves to see the most? His four children taking the ice.
His youngest, 15-year-old Adam, recently won Gold for Team USA at the 2016 Youth Olympics in Lilliehammer, Norway. Although he wasn't’t be able to see the games live, it’s another moment this hockey dad will cherish.
“He’s been working hard at it,” Ulf said prior to the tournament. “This is a real fun opportunity for Adam to go over there and play with some really good players, and against some really good players.”
The youngest of four children, hockey has been around Adam since birth. His two older brothers, Philip and Henrik, are both currently playing in the Arizona Coyotes organization, while their sister, Victoria, is playing college hockey at Penn State.
Adam said he learned a lot from his family, namely to never take anything for granted, both in life and on the ice.
“Just to be humble,” Adam said when asked what his siblings and father taught him. “I learned a lot from them to not be cocky or anything.
“I get a lot of support, especially from my dad and mom,” Adam continued. “Me and my dad go over the games a lot, see what I can improve on. My mom just helps me with everything. I can talk to her about everything.”
The elder Samuelsson, who spent 16 seasons in the National Hockey League, including two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, said for he and his wife, Jeanette, their proud of what their children have accomplished thus far playing the game they love.
“We’re obviously really proud of our children,” he said. “Every parent is. Hockey has been phenomenal to us. Look at the things I’ve done personally. Me and my life have gone through my whole career and now get to enjoy the same thing through our four children. We’re really blessed that we’re able to stick with hockey. We really love it.”
But why? What is it about this game that has been such a cornerstone on the Samuelsson family? Ulf said it goes beyond the game itself.
“There’s a lot of fun with hockey, not necessarily just the sweat and the work,” he said. “It’s the group, the camaraderie. There’s so many fun things with hockey. You can pick any of them as your favorite.”
Adam, who plays defense for the Connecticut Junior Rangers, said he began to take the sport more seriously around 11. Today, he’s working out three times a week with his teammates, quite a change from just a few years earlier. But while the game is becoming more work as he moves up the ladder, the defenseman was quick to offer advice to youth hockey players.
“Just go out there and have some fun with your friends,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always been doing. That’s the biggest advice I would say to them.”
While the game is getting more serious for Adam, Ulf said that was never the goal when Adam was younger. Like Adam said, it was about fun.
“Nothing was ever serious,” Ulf said. “It was ‘you want to play? Play.’ It comes to that point when you’re 13 or 14 when it’s like ‘OK, mom is taking you at 4 in the morning somewhere, you better play your [butt] off.’ Those were the only rules we had. Other than that, we had so much fun.”