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The Return of Axelsson


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A lot can change in a year. You don't think about it in the moment; you can be having a real shitty day or it can feel like the best day of your life. A year later and those emotions have faded and you are in a much different place with a different mindset. It can be so hard to just enjoy the moment with the knowledge in the back of your mind. Imagine if you will, a young Swedish hockey player just trying to break into the professional hockey racket. Imagine this young player so full of promise and potential just falling off the face of the planet only months into his career. 


The young pivot had what could only be classified as a disastrous rookie season split between the Yukon Rush and the Saskatoon Wild. 36 points in 73 games in and of itself is not the end of the world; being -41 in those same 73 games is worse. Only one player was worse off in that stat at -46 but Mr. Cote piled up 63 points as a defence man on a Las Vegas team that did not feature any positive players. Let it be known that the Wild featured the player with the highest plus minus in the entire league, Kriztof Mueller was an impressive +47. 


Many new age hockey fanatics have found that the plus/minus statistic is archaic and has no place in hockey but the simple truth is that when you are compared to teammates it paints a pretty clear picture. Otto Axelsson did not come prepared to play professional hockey. The young centre was lacking in something and it showed up not just on the ice but also during practice and team meetings.

Fans are rabid and have no problem labelling young players as busts, they have no problem looking at a skinny teenager and calling him pathetic or a disgrace. If you aren't performing then you aren't seen as a human but rather a defective cog in the machine that needs to be jettisoned. Professional athletes are treated less like humans and more like a commodity; they are bid on, they are traded for and they are collected and hoarded like a prized stamp collection. What most don't see is the toll that can take on a person's mental health.


Think about your own job. When you first started you were nervous, not sure if you could do it and not sure if you would fit in. Would you make it past probation? Would your boss be a dick or would he be good? How would your co-workers treat you? Now imagine being 17 and being watched by millions of people around the globe. Think you might feel a little more stressed out? Some might not even make it through the first day if they had people watching their every move.


Axelsson felt this pressure and then some. Everything was new to him, he moved halfway across the world and left his family and friends behind. Otto bet on himself to make the show and that takes courage, unfortunately it didn't go the way he had hoped. Otto felt like a failure and he felt himself fall into a depression. A stigma exists where mental health is concerned. People are looked down upon as weak or flawed. Worse yet, people can see it as a choice. I don't know who would choose to feel that way but I can assure you that mental illness is not a choice.

Axelsson did not seek help because he felt that he was a disgrace and like he was less of a person because of the thoughts going through his head. Thus began Otto's year long sojourn away from hockey. The GM of the WIld did not even know the young man was gone from the team until the next season rolled around. Nobody heard from him, he simply vanished. Axelsson was lost and needed to find himself and he left North America.




Athletic Phonetic caught up with Otto and he gave us a very candid interview and he allowed us the chance to publish it which speaks volumes on his character.


Athletic Phonetic: Thank you for sitting down with us Axelsson, this must be tough for you. Are there any topics you are uncomfortable talking about?


Otto Axelsson: A few months ago I would have said yes but now I am strong. I was taught how to manage myself better and am good.


AP: Why don't you give us a quick rundown on what you did this past year?


OA: Uh.. well after the season ended I was broken and I needed to get out of the spotlight. I couldn't put myself together while dealing with everything that a professional athlete goes through. You don't get a lot of alone time and that makes it tough to sort through your shit. I bolted as soon as I could and travelled around the country side in Western Europe and talked to a few counsellors. I learned that many people go through what I was going through and they gave me tools to cope with it.


AP: So was it the pressure of hockey or life that got to you?


OA: Both. Not having my family and friends nearby really hurt me. Not having support affects everyone and that is one of the tools my therapists gave me. Always surround yourself with good people who are there for you so you can deal with the rigours of life.


AP: Ok that sounds great. Are you back? Is Axelsson a player that people should take note of?


OA: 110% man! I was thinking of staying back home and trying to catch on to a team in the SHL but I thought I owed it to myself to give this one more chance.


AP: Are you excited about being traded to Seattle?


OA: Absolutely! @Banackock, the gm of the Bears reached out to me and made me feel great. He made sure I was doing well and told me not to feel too pressured and that he would have my back with my issues. I think Seattle is going to feel like a family and the VHL better watch out for me!


It is always encouraging to see a comeback story like Axelsson's. We hope that he lives up to his potential as an offensive dynamo but we are just glad he is healthy. You can bet those of us at Athletic Phonetic will be watching the young Swede's progress closely. 


Word Count: 1094

Claimable for weeks:

Feb 12th to 18th

Feb 19th to 25th

Edited by Dangles13
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