Before winning the world title and playing in the NHL, before Stanley Cups and All-Star games, Filip Forsberg had a stick, some skates and a rudimentary ice rink outside his school.
Back in Leksand in his native Sweden, the daily routine was simple – head to class clutching your skates, then hit the rink the minute school ended.
If the rink wasn’t available, Forsberg and his crew would find a spot to play in the street, break as soon as dinner was ready, and then head straight back out afterwards to play until it got dark.
“Sometimes, it was probably minus 20 (Celsius), but we didn’t care,” Forsberg, who plays for the Nashville Predators, told CNN. “We just wanted to play.
“Me and my brother, all our friends just playing, it didn’t matter if you were good or bad, everybody could play, everybody could come.”
He laughs thinking of the early days, when he struggled to stand up but was so desperate to join the others playing hockey on a frozen pond near his grandmother’s house he begged his mom to take off his skates.
“I was just falling all over the place….I just wanted to run and play and stand up,” laughs Forsberg, whose father was a hockey coach and player.
Entering his seventh NHL season, Forsberg has already gone through the gamut in his professional career.
After spending four years at various levels with his hometown team Leksands IF, he was selected 11th overall in the 2012 NHL draft by the Washington Capitals, who traded his rights to the Nashville Predators the following year.
Forsberg spent a chunk of the season with Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s top developmental league, before returning to the Predators for 2014-15, a year in which he was picked for the NHL All-Star game and All-Rookie postseason team for his efforts in the playoffs.
While not the sole motivator for his success, he says his father’s regrets over not achieving more in his hockey career have inspired him through the most grueling moments of his own journey.
'The Keeper of the Cup' chaperones the Stanley Cup around the world
“He knew what it took [to make it professionally] and obviously looking back, he regrets not working hard because he had some talent. At least, he told me he had some talent, but he didn’t really put the work in,” explains Forsberg, who won the world title with Sweden this year.
“He’s been telling me those stories and for a reason. There is a time when practice isn’t that fun on a Sunday morning, stuff like that, and just having that thought in your head, obviously it motivates you, and he sees.
“He obviously regrets it and I don’t want to sit there in 20 years and do the same thing. I want to leave it all out there once I get the chance.”
His early hockey dreams centered around making his name at home and being selected for Sweden’s national team.
He got his first NHL jersey at an early age (fittingly, the Colorado Avalanche sweater of Sweden’s Peter Forsberg [no relation]) and, as time went on, he set his sights on a move across the Atlantic.
“The more success I had, I guess, in junior [leagues] and stuff like that, [with] the draft coming up, the more it really felt like [it could happen] and after that, it was just going to happen,” he says.
At only 24 years old, Forsberg has already had the chance to experience moments that some in his league have never come close to, such as making the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
His goal is to finish the job and win a first Stanley Cup for Nashville, his new hockey hometown and a city that’s housed, raised and supported him through a significant portion of his life.
“It’s just been amazing to be part of the growth of the city, and especially the hockey,” adds Forsberg. “And to bring the Stanley Cup there, that would be awesome.”