New York Rangers winger Carl Hagelin sat down to take part in an exclusive chat with XN Sports writer Sean Hartnett. In this wide-ranging interview, Hagelin chats about his childhood hero Peter Forsberg, his favorite New York restaurants, his passion for English soccer giants Manchester United, his friendship with Tiesto, and the music that gets him pumped up before taking the ice.
Carl Hagelin flies across the ice at a recorded top speed of 23 miles per hour. The Rangers winger is a blue blur. His flowing blonde hair and jersey flaps in the breeze, resembling legendary Montreal Canadiens winger Guy Lafleur.
Hagelin can dazzle with his quick burst. Two strides and he’s gone – separating himself from chasing defenders and bearing down on net. Hagelin also effectively uses his blazing acceleration to win races to loose pucks and can throw opponents off their game by pairing speed with feistiness. In October, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault went as far as to say that Hagelin’s speed scares the opposition.
“With his speed, I believe that he scares the opposition,” Vigneault said. “Two strides and boom – he’s in the hole. He’s on a loose puck. He’s first on a puck that normally somebody else would be on. So, that speed obviously backs off the opposition.”
The 26-year-old winger is a perfect fit for Vigneault’s up-tempo system. Vigneault trusts Hagelin on the Rangers’ top penalty killing unit as Hagelin logs 2:11 of shorthanded time on ice per game.
“My job on the P.K. is to win battles and be strong on the puck,” Hagelin said.
At 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, Hagelin is a slightly undersized NHLer. Being undersized has always fueled Hagelin’s desire to work hard on and off the ice. His extreme desire to win is evident every time he suits up in the Rangers’ blue, red, and white uniform.
“I was always one of the smallest guys,” Hagelin said. “So I had to work that little bit extra. I think that was my best characteristic growing up. I always wanted to win. I’d get grumpy if I didn’t win. It didn’t matter what we were doing, I’d work extremely hard. That definitely set the tone.”
Hagelin was inspired by watching older brother Bobbie rise through the Swedish youth ranks. Bobbie’s hard work eventually earned him a spot on hometown Sodertalje SK’s professional team.
“Any time you have a role model like that’s in the family and you see him succeed, you know there’s a possibility of yourself succeeding,” Hagelin said. “My brother was four years older than me. He played for the junior national team growing up.”
As a boy, Hagelin idolized Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg. While growing up in Sodertalje, he would go to bed at 10 p.m. local time and wake at 3 a.m. to watch Forsberg and the Colorado Avalanche compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Forsberg was the number one Swede that I looked to,” Hagelin said. “Every Swede that grew up around the same time as me – it was either Mats Sundin or Forsberg. Forsberg was my guy. I remember him playing for the Avalanche and being so successful day in and night out. He was one of those guys who competed so hard. That’s why he was so successful. He almost competed too hard. He was too aggressive, so he got all those injuries.”
Hagelin spent much of his youth around Sodertalje SK. His father, Boris briefly served as Sodertalje’s general manager. Hagelin would eventually play for Sodertalje’s under-20 team before opting to play four years of college hockey for the Michigan Wolverines.
“My dad was the GM there for a little bit,” Hagelin said. “I looked up to all the players. I was able to go in the locker room and get a few sticks here and there. For me, that was huge. It was like Christmas for me. There’s a quite a few players who went through the system there – Mikael Samuelsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Jhonas Enroth, Tom Wandell, Niclas Bergfors, Nicklas Grossman.”
On Nov. 24, 2011, Hagelin was called up from the minor-league Connecticut Whale. He would make his NHL debut a day later against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center, notching an assist in his first game.
From that point forward, Hagelin didn’t look back. He seemed to fit in with the Rangers with ease. Hagelin never appeared to be overwhelmed by his surroundings and settled quickly into life in fast-paced Manhattan.
“To be honest, I think I got used to it right away,” Hagelin said. “I was feeling good about myself and the team was rolling. It was easy to get acclimated to everything. I was living in White Plains at first, then I moved to Tribeca in late January of my first year. That’s a pretty quiet place. It wasn’t too busy. I think I realized what it took to live in the city pretty quick.”
Hagelin is halfway into his fourth season with the Rangers. He’s now living in the Meatpacking District and is loving the choice of restaurants that are only a short walk from his apartment.
“Now, I’m in the Meatpacking District,” Hagelin said. “There’s a lot of different restaurants there that I enjoy going to – Chelsea Market, Giovanni’s, Katz’s… there’s so many good spots. I don’t mind going to one of those small Thai spots and getting some Thai food.”
Hagelin usually takes a cab or rides the subway to Madison Square Garden. He occasionally gets spotted and doesn’t mind posing for a photo with fans in a subway car.
“I usually don’t drive,” Hagelin said. “Some days, I’ll take the subway. Other days, I’ll take a cab. Overall, most people on the subway are in their own world. They’re usually listening to music or taking a nap. If there’s a fan sitting next to me, they’ll ask for a picture or something. I don’t mind that. It’s always nice to see support from the fans.”
Before games, Hagelin will listen to Eminem to get his blood pumping. His tastes have evolved with the age. Eminem might be his go-to artist, but he prefers a pregame mix of mostly EDM artists.
“I like Eminem,” Hagelin said. “It’s always pumped me up since I was 12 years old. Nowadays, all the DJs have really good songs – whether it’s Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, David Guetta, or Swedish House Mafia.”
Hagelin befriended a number of EDM artists including Dutch DJ Tiesto, who owns an apartment in NYC. Tiesto has been spotted wearing the no. 8 of Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin jersey while visiting Ovechkin in D.C. and Hagelin’s no. 62 at Ranger games at MSG.
He’s urging Tiesto to pick a side and pull for the Rangers when they tangle with Ovechkin’s Caps.
“I have a lot of Tiesto’s songs on my mix,” Hagelin said. “He’s good friends with Ovechkin. You’re going to have to ask him who he pulls for when we’re playing the Capitals. He’s got a place here in the city. He feels like he’s a bit of a New Yorker. So, maybe he has to cheer for us when we’re playing the Caps.”
As for Hagelin’s favorite team away from the ice, it’s always been Manchester United. Both Hagelin and buddy Mats Zuccarello are passionate supporters of the 20-time English champions.
“It started with my Dad being a big Man U. fan,” Hagelin said. “They had Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Andy Cole… Dwight Yorke. Of course, I loved David Beckham. The treble year in 1999 was amazing. I loved those teams and watch United every week. I played until I was 15. My best year was probably when I was 13. I was on one of the better teams in the country. I was pretty good, but I lost it all after I stopped playing.”
Hagelin wants to emulate his idols Forsberg and Beckham by taking the next step in his career and delivering trophies. The Rangers won the Prince of Wales trophy as last season’s Eastern Conference champions, but fell short in the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
Hagelin feels that the greatest thing he learned from Vigneault is making sure he brings the same mentality every night.
“You can’t take nights off,” Hagelin said. “You need to make sure you’re playing hard every night. That comes down to your battle level.”
Hagelin isn’t the type to take a night off and the Rangers have benefited greatly from his hard work, skill, and dedication.