Aivis Kalnins Aivis Kalnins
exclusive for khl.ru

It’s Johan Mattsson’s first pro hockey season abroad and at age of 29 he has quite a few major world and European level achievements under his belt, he has experience that many goalies would dream to have, yet he is a simple family man that loves to stop the pucks for living.

Mattsson was born on April 25th of 1992 in Huddinge Municipality - a place in Stockholm county which is located in east-central Sweden and has a population of around 112 thousand people.

The goalie has begun his first KHL season with Dinamo Riga which currently sits in the eleventh position of the KHL standings, so far it isn’t a good result but the Swedish netminder has given his team a hope each time he has started in goal for his team. Mattsson has appeared in ten games so far this season and averages 1.98 goals against while having a .929 save percentage which shows that he is more than capable of doing his job.

‘’The season so far has been a little bit up and down, we have had some good games and some worse games. I think I have started the season okay. You are always gonna have some bad bounces and then good but it’s been a good start for me so far,’’ the goalie admitted when asked to give an assessment of the season so far.

Not many goalies stood in the net right away, not many goalies wanted to become one - they were just good at it while Mattsson was always interested to play in this position although there was some opposition from his dad.

‘’I ended up playing hockey because of my dad, he was a former hockey player and he introduced me to it. I wanted to be a goalie, but he didn’t want me to be one so he shot the pucks at my head to try and teach me that pucks can hurt and try to scare me away from being a goalie. By the age of nine, I fully committed to being a goalie and haven’t looked back since.’’ - like many things in life this appears as one of those meant to be stories.

Young boys usually have an idol, someone who’s in the lights of fame or someone who’s out there hoisting the Stanley Cup, making crazy saves, or anything really that can attract one to himself as a goalie for Mattsson it was a little different.

‘’I haven’t had any really big goalie idols in the NHL or anything. We had some good junior goaltenders in my junior team Huddinge growing up. Jhonas Enroth who played for Minsk was one of them so those are the guys that I mainly looked up to.’’

Prior to coming over from Sweden to play in the KHL, he had a world junior gold medal around his neck, two consecutive Champions Hockey League Titles, and an SHL championship under his belt - which one is the one that he remembers the most?

‘’It’s a tough question but the World Juniors gold medal was only the second time in history when Sweden had won it. I didn’t play any games at that tournament so I would have to say that becoming SHL champion is what I remember the most. Playing some 52 games, regular season, then playoffs and ending up winning it all and celebrating it in front of 30 thousand fans cheering for you - it’s something I will never forget.’’

He spent the best years of his career with Frolunda in the Swedish league - a team that is very well known to people in Europe and North America - what's it like to play there?

‘’Frolunda is a really professional team, they have a clear vision of how they wanna play and what it takes to play their game. It means that there is an intense summer workout, they play a certain way, high-pressure, they like to play offensive hockey and it was fun to play there for the last four years.’’

His final season in the SHL wasn’t as successful as the goalie would have wanted and at the right time a call with an offer presented itself - he didn’t have to think long, he knew that he would pack his bags, and after a good summer begin his new adventure.

‘’Dinamo Riga contacted me right before playoffs and asked me if I was interested and I just said yes - I didn’t have the best season in Frolunda last year, I didn’t get to play a lot and I thought that it would be a fun challenge to come here, play in Riga and the KHL. I had some interest in me, some offer two years ago but I decided to spend two more years in Sweden because of our family situation and it’s great to be here now,’’ also admitting that he spoke with former Dinamo Riga goalies Joakim Ericsson and Mikael Tellqvist to find out what the team and the new city is all about.

Now he and his family are here taking in what Riga has to offer and expressed that he is yet to see much of Russia. But what has he seen and enjoyed the most so far?

‘’In Riga, we have been to a lot of good restaurants, we’ve been to playgrounds, we have walked around the parks, been to the zoo and we’ve enjoyed all of it. It’s not really that different from Stockholm where we (him and his family) are from so we like it. On the road, we have mainly been to Moscow so I have to say Moscow.  Many things to do. Amazing buildings, malls it’s really nice there". For him any day off from hockey is a family day that includes many family activities. Even during the off-season, he spends most of his time with loved ones and when he’s not - you can either spot him working out or playing golf on a golf course.

As for game days, he has a 100 percent focus on the game and always puts in the maximum effort in what he does.

‘’I usually wake up at 8:30 in the morning, eat breakfast, and try to spend some time with the family. I walk to the rink and prepare for the morning skate, have some coffee, and then I stretch. Me and goaltending coach Edgars Lusins, I go out on the ice ten minutes earlier and do our own small little warm-up. Then we have the morning skate, we have lunch after that. After the skate, I go home to relax a little bit, take a power nap for an hour or so if I can and then I take the walk back to the rink and prepare for the game.’’

When heading into a new league and joining a new team there are always many expectations, there are rumors and concepts of how a certain thing is explained to you - not everything appears as it was told to Mattsson.

‘’Prior to coming over, I heard that this is a very defensive league with loads of skilled players. I can agree that there are many skilled guys here but I think that it’s more offensive than I believed before getting here. There of course are teams that do play that way but there are also plenty of them that hold on to the puck and play offensive, so I enjoy the hockey and I really enjoy the smaller rinks.’’

It would be a crime if he wasn’t asked to compare SHL to the KHL because he has now played in both and gotten himself a feel for both - what are the key differences?

‘’The main difference is just having more room for skilled players here in the KHL. In SHL there is a lot of skating and pressure, it’s always about pressure. Here you have more time for skilled players and the rink is also smaller and it’s a lot more fun and there is more room for nice plays.’’

Prior to this interview, his goaltending coach Edgars Lusins was asked to tell a little about Mattsson who only had good things to say about him - "He’s open-minded but isn’t jumping into things over his head. I want him to play for Swedish national one day’’ Lusins said via text message - "It’s my goal for him and me truly from the bottom of my heart hope that he will achieve it.’’

Does Mattsson want to represent his nation? Does he think about it?

‘’It’s a goal for both of us but I don’t think about it a lot. It’s always the next game that’s on my mind. Trying to make the next game as good of a game as I can and give the guys in front of me a chance to win and be the last outpost in the net.’’

Aivis Kalnins Aivis Kalnins
exclusive for khl.ru

Related clubs

Dinamo (Riga) Dinamo (Riga)
Share
Прямая ссылка на материал
Распечатать