Sportsnet magazine spent a couple of hours with Erik Karlsson in Los Angeles in early January for the cover story of the current issue.
Some of the interesting things we talked about hit the cutting-room floor before the final draft was published.
Herewith, the best defenceman in the world on Ikea food, the Swedish art of fika and the rule he hates most in hockey:
His girlfriend, Ottawa native Melinda Currey, has a big influence on his viewing habits:
‘I watch a lot of shows when I’m at home or on the road. I usually watch at home when I’m with my girlfriend. Heart of Dixie was pretty good. We watch Parenthood, we watch Sons of Anarchy. I’m not a movie guy.’
With music, he listens to whatever suits his mood—but country music has become his go-to, and that’s his girlfriend’s influence, too:
‘Yeah, it is. A hundred percent. In Sweden, we don’t have country, so I never listened to it growing up. When I moved over here, I didn’t really care for it that much—I didn’t really give it a chance. But as of recently, or a few years back now, I started listening to it and fell in love with it.’
It’s hard for him to say how much he maintains Swedish traditions in Ottawa, because for him, they’re just normal. But one thing that’s a constant is fika, or the Swedish coffee break:
‘We fika a lot. Fika is a thing you do: “Let’s go fika.” That means you sit down and have a coffee and eat something. That’s all I do in the summers when I’m back in Sweden—that’s what we do for two, three hours every day.’
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As a Swede, he does actually like IKEA, and his girlfriend goes there to pick up coffee bread, chocolate balls and other desserts for fika.
‘It used to be better because they used the [Swedish] brands. Now they’ve started making their own, so it’s the same stuff but it’s not as good.’
What he misses most from home is the food. Dinners are pretty much the same in restaurants in Sweden and North American, but lunch is very different.
‘We eat different—we eat a lot of potatoes and meatballs.’
In interviews, he keeps his cards close to his vest concerning his personal life, but his Instagram heavily features his girlfriend and his gushing comments about her.
‘My Instagram is not that hockey-related. I find that I get that so much, I talk to the media all the time, so I find that all my social media is mostly going to be as personal as I will get. I can decide what I want to show and what I want to tell. I think Instagram is good because pictures say a lot and people can draw their own conclusions.’
One of the best photos from his Instagram—or of any NHL player ever, frankly—depicted his girlfriend dressed as Ariel and Karlsson done up as Ursula the Sea Witch [from the movie The Little Mermaid], complete with a full-body purple paint job. The idea was ‘clearly not mine,’ he says, and it took a couple of friends three hours to do his make-up.
‘I don’t really remember how long I stood in the shower when I got home, late at night.’
Some of his favourite Ottawa restaurants are North & Navy, Allium, El Camino and Ace Mercado.
‘We have a lot of spots now that are starting to pop up, that are actually really, really good. We’re big foodies, too, so we like it.’
The most fun and satisfying play for him is an assist.
‘When you pass to someone who scores. I like that more than scoring myself. I don’t score as much, so that’s probably why I like it more.’
There’s one rule in the books that annoys him.
‘I don’t like offsides, but we need that in the game. But every time there’s an offside, it pisses me off.’
He doesn’t know yet what he wants to do when he retires—but at the moment, he thinks it will be something outside of hockey.
‘I have not gone there yet. A lot of things can change. If you would have asked me five years ago I would have given you an answer, [but] I probably would have given you a different one today. By the time I’m ready to quit, I think I’ll have something I want to do.’