Joacim Eriksson talks about goaltending, his junior career, his relationship with his ex-team Brynäs and ex-team mate, Panthers prospect Jacob Markström, coaches, dogs, last season, national team, how he ended up in Skellefteå, his talks with the Flyers and you name it what else.
Let's start with how he became a goaltender.
"When I was a kid I played every other game as a goalie and as a skater in Hedesunda. When I was seven I was given the chance to be a full time goalie. It went well for me and I thought it was cool to make saves."
It still feels cool today.
"Yeah. It's such a special challenge; the pressure you have for your goalie. He's the last guy who can do something about the puck going in or not."
The Brynäs years with Markström
Eriksson started his junior career with Brynäs, but it wasn't his first option.
"I applied in hockey colleges in some bigger places, but I didn't get in. I was a third goalie on the Gästriksland team at the TV-Puck tournament. But I kept working and had a good time all the time. I never felt any pressure about hockey. It wasn't a must for me. I just wanted to go forward all the time."
"One summer I went to try on the Brynäs U18 junior team. We had five goalies and I kept thinking: 'Will I make it?' and 'Do I have to go to another team?' But it went really well for me and me and one of the other guys got to play."
That one other guy was Jacob Markström, the biggest goalie talent in Sweden.
"Yeah. Me and Jacob played together on the U20 team. He got to play a little more than I did and I felt that in the most important games it was him who got to play."
"Most of all, Jacob has a winner's mentality."
By "winner's mentality" Eriksson means...
"If I was really good at some practice, he was bitter. Then he kept working and was amazing at the next practice."
"It was a huge battle between us."
Eriksson says he's not staying in touch with Markström on a regular basis anymore.
"Not that we'd call each other, but if we meet, we talk."
Eriksson sees a very bright future ahead for his old partner in battle.
"He's big in goal and has such good hockey sense. I believe that he's going to play in Florida already this season."
Eriksson admits that he wants to show Brynäs now that it was a mistake for them not to trust him instead.
"Yeah, I'm definitely going to show them what I can do. With them, I got to sit on the bench in some Elitserien game at best. Before last season they wanted to loan me to some Allsvenskan team or have me continue on their junior team. But I didn't want that at all."
"Skellefteå was interested already then. But I thought that the best for my development would be to spend a year with Leksand."
Eriksson says he's very thankful to Leksand coach Leif Strömberg for his success last season.
"I went there to be the backup. That was the role they wanted me in. But I played better than Timo [Leinonen] and got to play. It gave me a lot of confidence and it meant a lot to me that the coach had faith in me right from the start of the season."
"Strömberg was a special coach. He didn't accept mistakes. I've gotten a lot of crap from him."
"When we had our first on-ice practice I let a couple shots in and he started yelling that we need to replace the goalie coach. It was pretty tough to hear as a new guy..."
Skellefteå coach Anders Forsberg is different type.
"He's special too, but in his own way. I've had him on the junior national team. He shows what he wants, it's easy to understand what he means and he speaks relaxed and understandably. He's not a hot head."
Eriksson isn't a hot head either. Skellefteå goalie coach Krister Holm calls Eriksson a "child of nature". Though Eriksson isn't sure what Holm means by that.
"I don't know. But I haven't had a goalie coach when I was a kid, so maybe it's that I'm pretty self-educated to begin with and I've done a lot of things by just feel."
"Everyone also says that I'm so calm, but I'm not sure if that's true."
National team a matter of time
The season has barely started, but there's already talk about Eriksson playing for the national team eventually. Team Sweden goalie coach Stefan Lahde is one who said that Eriksson on the national team is not an "if", but a "when".
"National team is definitely a dream for me. Yes, Elitserien has also been a dream. When I was a kid and went to see games in Gävle I thought: 'Oh, I'd like to be there!' and the Brynäs players were my biggest idols."
"But now I'm trying not to look too far ahead. I'm just trying to stop all the pucks every day. That's hard enough. We have many skilled shooters on the team and they also let me hear it extra loud when they score on me in practice."
"Christian Söderström and Jimmie Ericsson do that the most. So those two are the ones I especially don't want to score on me..."
Flyers hesitated - multiple years in Sweden?
After a successful last season with Leksand, Eriksson says the Flyers decided that it was best for him to play in the Elitserien next. Though there was some hesitation about it at first.
"The Flyers didn't really know if they'd want me to come over, but then they decided that it could be good for me to play some years in the Elitserien."
Eriksson certainly had many takers in the market after his record setting year in the Allsvenskan.
"Leksand wanted to keep me there and I also had many options in the Elitserien. Brynäs was also interested in me, but they wanted a quick decision from me since they thought it was so hard to find goalies in the market. Then things went like they did with their goalies that moved over to North America."
"But I didn't want to decide already before the post-season with Leksand and Skellefteå was willing to wait."
"It was an important matter to me that there was an understanding and that it was easy for me to concentrate on the post-season. It also felt right when I went to Skellefteå to meet with the club. I got a good gut feeling."
"It felt right with the goalie coach and everything else. The club helped me with the apartment and everything. Sometimes they've also arranged a babysitter for my dog when needed."
Talking about dogs, they're close to Eriksson's heart.
"I have a calm German Shepherd named Bianca. I like to train her and take good care of her. I've take her to an exhibition once and she came third."
"I got her last season in Leksand. I had been wanting to get a dog for a long time and eventually I just decided to get one."
But back to hockey. The way the goalies have been played in the preseason and in the first two regular season games in Skellefteå has created a very interesting situation in goal. Both goalies have played an equal amount of games. Eriksson has another battle ahead, similar to what he had with Markström in Brynäs. Now he'll be battling with Andreas Hadelöv who's coming off of the best season in his long career. Hadelöv was also voted as the best player in Skellefteå last season by the team's fans. Sounds like a good challenge.
"It feels like the step between juniors and the Allsvenskan is bigger than the step between the Allsvenskan and Elitserien. I'm going to fight as hard as I can to not sit on the bench. I definitely don't want to sit. I want to play and so does Hadelöv. Neither one wants to sit."
Eriksson doesn't know if the current "every other game" rotation will continue from now on.
"I don't really know. The one who's best is going to play, that's what they say."
"It's been said that we're going to fight for the position, that the best will play, but also that we're going to rotate."
Eriksson says he feels confident and he's ready for the challenge.
"I feel big in goal, I cover the net a lot and I can use both sides well, the glove and the stick."
The battle between Eriksson and Hadelöv seems even on the ice, but...
"I think it feels pretty even between me and Hadelöv. It's only in squash where it's uneven. He's terrific at squash and beats me really easily..."
Joacim Eriksson Quick Facts
Where does Skellefteå finish in the regular season?
Who will be the biggest positive surprise on the team?
"Train Bianca, fishing, movies, other sports"
Favorite sports teams?
"Anaheim Ducks when I was a kid. Liverpool"
"Two and a half men, Simpsons"
"Don't remember when I read a book"
Goal or assist?
Night at home or night out?
"Night at home"
Last thing you do before a game?
"I go to the crease, get in the V position, get up again and check my glove and blocker to get the right feel"
First thing you do after a game?
"Depends on how it went. If we won I dance and jump"
First thing you do in the morning?
"Go out with Bianca. She eats before I do. Then I watch some TV and go to practice"
Last thing you do in the evening?
"Brush my teeth"
This report was based off of a Swedish-language story in the publication VF.