The town is called Lerberget, and according to Hampus Lindholm it translates to “mud mountain” in English. The Swedish port is actually a quiet, quaint seaside postcard — population 3,000 — by Lindholm’s estimation.
When Lindholm grew up there, his father, Jonas, would drive him north into the slightly bigger city of Hoganas, because that had the nearest hockey rink. Often tagging along, sometimes with her nose to the glass, was his younger sister, Malin.
“When my mom [Paetra] was working [as an elderly care worker], I was always there watching practice,” Malin Lindholm said. “As we do now.”
The flashback hit Malin as she again watched Hampus at a recent Ducks practice, more than 5,500 miles and years removed from those frozen mornings in their picturesque hometown. It’s a family story that arrived full circle this fall when Malin, 19, became a freshman soccer player at Long Beach State and was reunited with Hampus, 22, in his fourth season as a Ducks defenseman.
The two are part of the Ducks’ siblings trip in which brothers and sisters travel with the players on the road. The Ducks have traditionally done mothers and fathers trips but changed it up for the two-game jaunt that ends Saturday at the Arizona Coyotes.
“All these kinds of trips are always fun, because you know how much they appreciate it,” Hampus said. “That’s the fun part.”
The trip is actually a rare time for brother and sister to get time together since Malin arrived. Hampus’ season was delayed by a contract dispute that didn’t see him join the Ducks until November. By then Malin’s season was in full swing and their schedules didn’t cooperate. Malin couldn’t help notice the irony when Hampus was training in Sweden while in contract limbo.
“He’s always the one who has left me home in Sweden, going to America,” Malin said. “But this time I was the one who went away. So he was the one that stayed home with my parents for a long time.”
But, Malin also said, “we’ve always been very close to each other so it has never been a problem.”
Long Beach State women’s soccer Coach Mauricio Ingrassia got a sense of that when he recruited Malin. Ingrassia spoke with Hampus during that time and Hampus reassured him that his sister would be a good fit for the program.
“He took a lot of ownership in his sister,” Ingrassia said. “I really liked that. It was almost like a parent.”
Malin said she didn’t choose the 49ers to be close to Hampus, but it helped that Hampus was nearby for support, even if he doesn’t see her often. While most of Ingrassia’s players have local family to turn to for a home-cooked meal every now and then, that wouldn’t be the case for Malin. But “it was significant for her to have her brother here,” Ingrassia said.
Malin became aware of American colleges when Hampus came to Anaheim. She sent video links of her games to schools she liked. Ingrassia was intrigued by the video and took a chance on her without seeing her play in person.
“I liked the fact that her brother was a professional and helped her get through the workouts,” Ingrassia said.
“That discipline gets built in. That helps. He was the one that sort of guided her.”
Ingrassia saw the athleticism and “tactical base” in Malin. Hampus might have something to do with that because he gave Malin soccer pointers and attended her games when they were growing up. He’s still a soccer fan and watches a lot of English Premier League.
That’s pretty common. Many European NHL players grew up with the sport; it’s a well-known exercise for hockey players to form a circle and kick a soccer ball in the corridors of arenas before games to warm up their agility skills.
Malin is a defender, just as Hampus was when he played. He would probably would be on the pitch if hockey didn’t pan out.
“I played for a long time,” Hampus said. “I was pretty good when I was young.”
Their proximity in age allowed them to follow each other’s athletic paths at roughly the same time. Hampus rose up through the Swedish leagues, was selected sixth in 2012 NHL draft and and made his NHL debut at 19. He is considered among the game’s top young puck movers and best plus-minus players. Bruce Boudreau, a former Ducks coach, once said of Lindholm: “When he’s in his mid-20s, he’s going to be as good as there is.”
The Ducks signed him in October to a six-year contract worth $5.25 million annually. It was the last piece of a complicated offseason puzzle that Ducks General Manager Bob Murray snapped together. Through 44 games, the Ducks are in first place in the Pacific Division.
That pleases Malin’s teammates, who Ingrassia said are Ducks fans. Malin prefers to be anonymous with her connection to the team and doesn’t wear Ducks’ gear on campus.
“There’s actually a lot of L.A. Kings fans at my school,” she said.
Hampus sounded like a big brother when relayed this tidbit. “Well,” he said. “We’ll have to do something about that.”
When: Saturday, 5 p.m. PST
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Update: Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore got an assist Thursday after his latest recall while Korbinian Holzer is away from the team to handle a personal matter, a Ducks spokesman said. … Arizona center Alexander Burmistrov secured his work visa and was working toward his Coyotes debut after being claimed on waivers, according to the Arizona Republic.