Crossing the Blue Line

Bethel hockey player from Sweden thrives on the rink and in the kitchen.

Conrad Engstrom | Sports Reporter

Johan Kling walks with a swagger. His blonde facial hair glows as he smiles. He strolls through the BC wearing his signature fedora hat and carrying his hockey gear. When he speaks in his Swedish accent, the 195 pound Kling seems a little less intimidating.

Kling felt welcomed the moment he stepped on campus. The 6’3″ defenseman from Furudal, Sweden visited Bethel University with hockey coach Charlie Burggraf. Kling had multiple offers to play division III hockey in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York, but after his visit at Bethel, he knew this was the place for him.

“He’s got good European style and he wears it well,” sophomore defenseman Crosby Steen said.

Kling was born and raised in Angelholm, Sweden just off the coast of the North Sea and about 81 miles north of Copenhagen. Hockey had always been his favorite thing to do, but he played other sports like soccer, swimming and floorball (very similar to broomball).

When Kling is back in Sweden, Kling skates and meets with Mattias Ekholm, an NHL player for the Nashville Predators. Kling would skate with Ekholm during the summer to watch him on the ice and ask questions about being a better defenseman.

“It is nice to be around guys that play in the NHL and get to know them because I look up to those guys like Mattias Ekholm,” Kling said.

When Kling was growing up, things were not easy. He lived in a hospital until age three due to serve food allergies. His food choices limited him, restricting him from foods that contain nuts, pork, some fruits and veggies, gluten and more.

His food allergies inspired in Kling a love of cooking. By age 12, Kling knew what types of food he could and could not have, and it affected his life daily. At a restaurant, he would ask the waiter what was in the dish he would order to make sure he could eat it. When he would go over to a friend’s house he would sometimes have to bring his own food because he knew he could not eat what was being served.

In Sweden when you are 12, you are allowed to go home by yourself. Kling would go home and cook for himself before hockey practice since his parents were gone. He began to love cooking. He cooked for his friends regularly.

“It’s cool to cook and see everyone enjoying what you are doing for them,” Kling said.

At age 17, Kling wanted to start playing hockey more competitively, so he moved and started living on his own in Furudal, Sweden, roughly 425 miles north of Angelholm. He graduated after two years from Stiernhooksgymnesiet High School and moved to North America to continue his hockey career. He played the 2014-15 season in Ontario, Canada and the 2015-16 season in Tomah, Wisconsin before settling in at Bethel University this year.

After arriving at Bethel, Kling had to talk to the cooks to make sure he was getting food he could eat at the DC. Kling mostly eats the same thing every day, so when he gets in line, the cooks start preparing his food right away.

“I eat the same thing over and over again and the chefs know me pretty well so they help me out,” Kling said. “I really like this place because everyone takes care of you.”

It has been tough for Kling to adjust to school since English is his third language. Balancing school and hockey is also something he is not used to. However, he does his best to push through the struggles.

“I’m not the guy to sit in the corner and cry,” Kling said. “I try to talk to everyone and treat others the way I would be treated.”