Dallas Stars Care was able to sit down with Stars’ defenseman Mattias Norstrom. Mattias talks about his youth sports experience, how he was discovered, and gives great advice about playing the game.
Dallas Stars Care: What sports did you play growing up besides hockey?
Mattias: “I played soccer and hockey. I tried playing other sports like tennis and badminton, but the most organized sports at the time were hockey and soccer. Everyone growing up played soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter.”
Dallas Stars Care: Was there a point where you had to decide to play hockey exclusively?
Mattias: “Growing up in Sweden when you are about 12 or 13 you had to commit to one sport or the other because both sports practiced so much. By that time I was playing hockey so much that during the summer I played street hockey. It was an easy choice.”
Dallas Stars Care: Describe the role your parents had with your youth sports experience?
Mattias: “My parents played a big role, but they were also in the background. I had to do a lot of the after-school travel on the subway. But my parents would help out a lot by picking us up either in the morning or at night and doing carpools. My parents worked full time so we didn’t have the options. In that sense, they supported me a lot. My dad is hockey fanatic now. He tries to watch all the games.”
Dallas Stars Care: What advice do you have for the parents of kids playing youth sports?
Mattias: “You need to be supportive but always take a step back. It’s a fine balance where you want to support kids, but you want to teach them about not giving up. You need to have pressure on commitment, but never on performance.”
Dallas Stars Care: What would you be doing if you weren’t a hockey player?
Mattias: “I would probably do something in construction, engineering, or building. I took that in school for three years, so something like that.”
Dallas Stars Care: How did you get discovered?
Mattias: “I was discovered pretty late for the NHL. When I was 19 I made the Europe Junior National team. You can start making the team when you are 15-16, but I never did. I made some late cuts, but didn’t make it till later. Most of the guys on my team where two years younger than me.”
Dallas Stars Care: What were your keys to making it to the NHL?
Mattias: “Hard work in the summer has always been a big key for me. Working out and becoming as physically prepared as you can be for the season. That is one of the big keys to making it to the NHL, and more importantly to stay there.”
Dallas Stars Care: What tips do you have for handling pressure during big games?
Mattias: “It’s all in that last word, “game.” You can never forget that it’s a game. There are so many things that are more important for kids. It supposed to be a game and it’s supposed to be fun. So if you ever feel that pressure just remind yourself it’s only a game.”
Dallas Stars Care: Who in hockey would you choose as a role model for kids today?
Mattias: “Rob Blake, because he is a total professional around the rink and the way he plays the game. Away from the rink he is a tremendous guy, looking after teammates, and always being there for people. I can’t think of a better guy than him.”
Dallas Stars Care: How does “keeping the game fun” play a role in the pros vs. as a kid?
Mattias: “You set goals for yourself in the pros. And for me, keeping the game fun is keeping the game a challenge. Setting up goals for me is the challenge, and the fun of professional sports. I have fun everyday, even the days I come in serious.”