WILMINGTON (CBS) – Carl Soderberg is a bigger man than me.
In fact, he’s a bigger man than most of you reading this, and not just because at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and sporting a head of shiny blonde locks he resembles some sort of Swedish gladiator (if there ever were such a thing).
You see, in the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics, Soderberg plans to root for Sweden. You’re probably ready to ask me “what’s the big deal about a guy from Malmo rooting for his home country to take home the gold medal from Sochi?”
Well, let’s just say Soderberg rooting for Sweden will kind of be like you rooting for your ex-wife to marry the perfect man after she divorces you because you took the job of your dreams rather than a position working in her dad’s store.
Soderberg’s been relegated to spectator status like the rest of us non-players for the Sochi Games because he’s being punished by the Swedish federation for picking the Bruins over the World Championships last spring.
“I had a feeling that maybe I’m not going to be able to play for the Swedish national team again the next couple years,” Soderberg recalled after practice at Ristuccia Arena this week. “So I don’t know whether they’ll allow me to play there [again], but that doesn’t matter. We have the playoffs here every spring and this is so much better. That’s why I chose to come here.”
Soderberg wasn’t on Sweden’s preliminary roster for Sochi, thus he’s not even being considered as a replacement for an injured player. Soderberg’s fine with that. It took courage for him to come to North America, not only because he would infuriate his home country but because success with the Bruins wasn’t guaranteed.
It was a risk Soderberg thought was worth taking.
“I didn’t know about it. But this was my dream. I wanted to go for it, that’s why I came here,” said Soderberg, who wound up playing in six regular-season games and two Stanley Cup finals games for the Bruins.
Soderberg’s brief stint with Boston in 2013 did little to convince anyone he’s made the right choice. But so far in 2013-14, he’s cashed in that bet big time. Through 46 games, he’s posted 8-20-28 totals.
Considering he missed the first six games of the season with a severe ankle injury and took some time to find his game even after he returned to active duty, it’s been an impressive run.
Recently, he’s settled onto a line with countryman Loui Eriksson and veteran Chris Kelly. With Eriksson and Kelly coming off serious injuries, Soderberg’s had to be the aggressor with two linemates still feeling their way back and it’s worked.
Although, Soderberg tries to deflect the credit. “The line is great and we’re strong. I think that’s the most important key,” he said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has seen Soderberg simplify his approach to the game and thrive.
“If he over thinks, I think it really slows him down,” the coach said.
If Soderberg and his linemates keep up their hot play, the Olympic break might come up at a bad time. However, Soderberg’s looking forward to some time off. He and his wife might travel or they might stay home because they’re expecting a child soon.
Soderberg says his conflict with the Swedish federation won’t hinder his ability to root for many of the Swedish players he knows, including Eriksson, in the Games.
If Sweden’s knocked out, he’ll still find a rooting interest in the other teams that feature Bruins players. Maybe playing in the Olympics was part of his career plan years ago, but nothing could trump the NHL.
“I don’t care, actually. I’m so glad to be here,” he said. “Olympics would be fun, but this is so much better.”
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