From the sunny beaches of California to the wintery city of Gothenburg, Ryan Lasch talks about his journey to Sweden as a player and the success he has found here.
The defending SHL champs got off to a bit of a bumpy start in their new campaign with back to back losses. However, since that second loss they have done a complete 180 and are now sitting 2nd overall in the standings, just one point back of Rögle for top spot. Having strung together five wins in a row, they show no signs of slowing down.
This kind of success is very familiar to the Indians who have performed well consistently over the past few years. In fact Frölunda has finished the regular season in the top three for the last six seasons in a row. That kind of success, Lasch says, is due to a number of small things coming together to work as a whole.
– We have a bunch of older guys mixed with some younger guys and we get really well together. I think we're a pretty close group and that goes a long way, we have a lot of character on our team. Obviously having Joel as a good captain, he holds us accountable for how we play and how we look as well and I think that's important. It's just those little things that all add up, those small things even though they don't seem so big, they all add up at the end. They do matter as far as having the right guys in the dressing room to have a winning team.
Unlike its North American counterpart, the SHL has a tremendous amount of turnover from season to season. Players will move to different teams, different leagues and even different continents. All this makes for a lot of teams having to adapt to new players and new looking squads almost every year. In some extreme cases, you could have a team that is more than 50% new players. That kind of turnover is tough to adapt to right out of the gate as it takes time for players to build chemistry. Frölunda, on the other hand, have managed to avoid significant turnover this season.
The Indians have 17 players from last years championship team returning this season and 7 players that have spent at least three seasons in Gothenburg. This is something Lasch also credits for the teams continued success
– I think it's easier to start the season knowing you just won with that group and you still have the same returning players. On the other side you might think that players might get complacent and aren't hungry, but I don't think that's the case with us, I haven't seen that. We are still hungry, we know the taste of victory, all 17 guys from last year know it. We want to get to that place again and put ourselves in that position again.
As he enters his seventh season in the league Lasch is also returning for his fifth season in Frölunda. Lasch has found great personal succes with the Indians scoring 177 points in just 165 games played. He has also grabbed two SHL scoring titles while a part of the organization. That personal success as well as being a part of an organization that consistently puts together a winning team is what keeps him coming back year to year.
– I just think it's the whole club atmosphere here, they always put a winning club on the ice. Being a part of that type of culture, for me, is important. I get joy out of it and it's fun to be part of a successful organization. They also treat their North American skaters well here, I think it's just a god spot in general to be. It's a second home for me for sure.
Over the past two seasons the league has seen it's North American content drop from over 60 skaters to just 30 this year, a 6 year low. As many other North American players would probably agree, Lasch thinks that this league is tough to adjust to as a North American. Not only that, the young Swedish content in the league is increasing in skill every season and claiming those roster spots.
– Could be budget reason, but I think it could be the fact teams are going in a different direction. You don't see to many North Americans coming over here and having automatic success, so teams are maybe starting to be aware of that a little more, it's tough to pin point. I just don't think it's an easy league to come in to and produce right away. The league is also developing their own young talent and giving those guys a chance too, I think that plays a big role as well.
One of the biggest differences in this league compared to Canada and the US that would be evident to any North American immediately... is the fans. The atmosphere within the arenas every night in this league are really something else. The flag waving, the team chants, the fan sections that are constantly cheering and chanting really bring a whole other layer to the game. This kind of atmosphere, Lasch says, really brings more excitement to the arenas.
– I love it, it's awesome. The atmosphere is one of a kind, I think it's exciting. It's just fun to be part of the atmosphere, they're non-stop, it's something you've never seen before. For families and friends that come over or watch on TV they always say something about the fans. I don't know how the fans do it, they're standing and chanting for two and half hours, that takes a lot.
Originally from Lake Forest California, just outside of Los Angeles, Lasch grew up with the Kings franchise during its height in the early 90's. One player in particular, he thinks, had a Great effect on the popularity of the sport at that time.
– Kings were the big team at the time, they had the cup run in 93, so that was the prime of my youth hockey. I followed Wayne Gretzky and he made an impact in California hockey, I believe, for all of us. Then when Anaheim came it helped hockey grow even more. It's definitely because of those two organizations that hockey is getting really good in California.
Despite following the Kings and Gretzky from a young age, the main influence in his life that encouraged him to pursue hockey was his father.
– Part of it was more my dad, he was a speed skater growing up, so he's the one that brought me to the rink. After that was when I really started to fall in love with the game. That's when I started following and watching the pros on TV.
His love for hockey turned in to a successful junior career that spanned two season with the Pembroke Lumberkings of the CJHL. That lead to the NCAA where he joined Saint Cloud State University. Despite his success as a junior player and at the collegiate level, professional hockey as a career option didn't really dawn on him until after a few seasons in College.
– I would say I didn't really realize it until even my senior year in college what I wanted to do. I was kind of a late bloomer and I din't know the possibilities that were in store for me if I did go and play in Europe. I'm glad I took the opportunity because this has opened a lot of door´s and I've made a lot of frienships from it.
After winning both the SHL and CHL titles last year with Frölunda, a much needed rest was welcomed as Lasch returned home to California with a familiar face.
– I was able to spend the summer at home. Got together with Rhett Rakhshani, he lives just twenty minutes away from me, we got to hangout a couple times, skate a couple times. It was your typical california summer, going to the beach a lot, play golf. It was a good get away, especially after that long season we had.
Favorite Tv Show: Modern Family
Movie: Don't really have one
Music Genre: Country and Techno, a little of both
Meal: A good steak
NHL Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Dream Car: That's a tough one, not really a car guy. I don't really care what kind of car I have.
Lasch and Frölunda continue their season on Saturday evening as they face off against league leaders Rögle.