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ASU hockey embraces first European players

Sophomore Jakob Stridsberg playing against Harvard, Friday, October 28 in Glendale.(Photo by Nicole Vasquez/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – The game is faster. The rink is smaller. And the weather is warmer. But hockey players Georgy Gorodetsky and Jakob Stridsberg, both more than 5,000 miles away from home, were made to feel right at home the minute they put on an Arizona State University jersey.

“When you put on our jersey and you have a spot in our room, it doesn’t matter where you are from, or what your nationality is, your sexual orientation is, it doesn’t matter,” coach Greg Powers said. “None of that matters. You are a Sun Devil, you are our family and that is all that we care about.”

Gorodetsky came from Yekaterinburg, Russia, and is ASU’s first player recruited from Europe. The freshman forward has lived in the United States for six years, giving him some time to adjust to life in a different country. 

“It wasn’t that hard,” said Gorodetsky, who has played in three games but has yet to score a goal. “But the weather is pretty hot here. That did take me awhile to get used to it.”

Although the weather in Sweden is much colder than in Arizona, the transition has also not been difficult for Stridsberg.

“It is a different place to play hockey,” said Powers. “You get here and it is so hot, so it is definitely a culture shock for a lot of these kids, especially the Canadian kids and the kids who have been out east and up north playing junior hockey. So everybody has adapted. It is starting to cool off now so it is starting to feel a little bit more normal for them.”

Stridsberg, a sophomore, moved to the North America from Jonkoping, Sweden. A defenseman who has played in all eight games for the Devils this season, he has scored one goal against Notre Dame and also had one assist to contribute to ASU’s lone win against the Air Force.

“It is a cool experience,” Stridsberg said. “It is a new team, of course, and to be a part of this new program is a really big deal for me.”

The inaugural season for the Sun Devils was a “hybrid” that consisted of a mixture of NCAA Division 1 and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) games. This season is Arizona State’s first full NCAA Division 1 schedule.

Both players have traveled a long way play in North America. Not only did they have to adjust to living in a new country, they also had adapt to how hockey is played in the U.S.

“It’s faster and more physical,” Gorodetsky said. “The ice rink is smaller compared to in Europe.”

Rinks in Europe are the same in length, but are 15 feet wider than in the U.S., making their rinks 200 by 100 feet. Even though the game is faster in the U.S., both have brought something different to the team.

“It’s just a different flavor,” Powers said. “We have a bunch of Americans and Canadians. To get some more diversity and culture in our room is good and we are excited about that. They are both good kids, really good teammates and so they are bringing a lot to the table.”

Since they are the only two players from outside of North America, they help each other but also have had support from their teammates.

“Our hockey team sees each other all the time, and we spend a lot of time together,” said Stridsberg. “You get really close to everyone, and it has been really nice.”

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