This week we’re going to change the name of this feature to “My Hometowns” to accommodate Philip Samuelsson’s childhood. When I asked him to talk about his hometown, he couldn’t pick just one.
Samuelsson grew up in two different worlds - the desert and the lake.
Some might say it’s the best of both worlds.
He spent the majority of the year living in the Phoenix area where his father, Ulf, was a coach with the NHL Coyotes. In the summer, once the season was over, the Samuelsson’s would leave the hot, dry Arizona desert for the lush forests and clear lakes of Leksand, Sweden - the hometown of his mother.
So, as you can see Samuelsson grew up in two different worlds - two different continents. And each one had its perks. One place afforded Samuelsson to meet Wayne Gretzky, and the other allowed him the chance to spend time with his family and jet ski the day away on an alpine lake.
But Samuelsson also pointed out plenty of other perks with each place. One deals with food, and it’s a delicacy that former Penguin Janne Pesonen talked about when he was here a few years ago.
What was is like growing up in Phoenix?
“For me it was awesome. To meet Wayne Gretzky and other great hockey players over the years there. They’ve got a nice arena and the team itself has come a log way since the talk of relocation.”
Any other benefits?
“It’s a really up and coming place. It’s in the desert so its always warm – nice in winter. There’s a lot of money there. Malls always popping up everywhere and lot of good looking girls there. That helps. The Grand Canyon is nearby and the red rocks in Sedona, so there’s a lot of good scenery. It’s a really nice town.”
How about Leksand?
“It’s a smaller town, right by a lake. They have a team in the second league over there. Mom grew up there and dad played there. We have a lot of family and friends there. Pretty special place to go back to in the summers. We go back every summer to Leksand.”
And the benefits to growing up in Leksand?
“It can be nice and it can also be cold and raining. We spend a lot of time on the lake with jet skis and boats. I like to play golf and fish on the lake. Not too much exciting but it’s a nice place to just relax.”
When JannePesonen, who is from Finland, played here he raved about a reindeer dish served with berries back home. Are there any unique dishes in Leksand like that?
“They do this dish, it’s like pickled herring. It smells terrible but my grandparents love it. There are some unique dishes over there. The berries he was talking about are lingonberries, and it’s big over there. Up north you get more traditional Swedish stuff. There’s a lot of reindeer stews. It’s pretty good.”
How did growing up on two continents benefit you?
“Playing pro hockey, you never know when you’ll be traded. If you know what its like to move it’s not a big deal. For me it’s cool to see new towns and meet new people.”
Can you pick one place over the other?
“I can’t choose. I would like to have both of them in my life. It’s two totally different experiences growing up in Sweden and then the United States. It’s a meshing of cultures.”
Anything about Wilkes-Barre remind you of Sweden or Arizona?
“There’s obviously good people that you meet anywhere, including this area. But the landscape is as far off as you can get from both. Here it’s pretty with the valley, the mountains and the river. Sweden it’s all dense forests and lakes. Phoenix it’s all construction and desert. Three different worlds.”