Duo now on a different kind of mission
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 13:02
The Utah State hockey team punched its ticket this past weekend to the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament in Boston on March 14-18.
For Stewart Hepburn and Sam Lindquist, two players who have skated key roles for the team, the bond between teammates extends off the ice. Hepburn and Lindquist share something beyond just goals — they share an international bond.
The two met on an iced-over soccer field in Sweden, playing one-on-one for hours until there wasn’t light enough to play. Hepburn was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country and was allowed by his mission president to bring his skates with him on his two-year service.
“When I first met Sam, he was super shy and could barely speak any English,” Hepburn said. “The Swedes play a very non-physical style of play. They don’t really hit a whole lot, and there’s hardly any fighting.”
He attributes Lindquist’s better play to the fact that there weren’t any boards to hit him into.
“He was really excited to make a good friend, someone he could play hockey with, someone that could remind him of his memories in Sweden,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist played for Orebro HK of the Swedish Hockey League, the top-tier of Swedish ice hockey. The sport was their biggest connection, with the only English in Lindquist’s vocabulary coming from watching the American TV shows that played in Sweden.
Both were members of the LDS church when they first met and had made each other better people when Hepburn left the country for his home in Utah.
After making a life-changing decision, Lindquist would be called to serve an LDS mission in none other than Salt Lake City, Utah. At the end of his two years of service, he got in contact with his old friend Hepburn, or “Stew,” and asked if he could drive up to Logan for a brief visit.
Lindquist’s “brief visit” lasted three days. The excursion led him to fall in love with both the campus and the valley, reminding him of the Swedish weather. After meeting with USU hockey head coach Jon Eccles and the team, it was decided Lindquist would play for USU.
These two polarized personalities are now roommates, with stories upon stories to tell about each other. With Hepburn describing his roommate with one word, he emphasized his Swedish friend as “slow.”
“He’s so slow, in everything,” Hepburn said.
Hepburn said he enjoys criticizing the drawn-out way of dressing himself, since Hepburn is known by the Swede to be “very chill” since “he wears his sweats to school.”
“Every morning, I’m pretty Euro; I get dressed up every day for school,” Lindquist said. “Stew’s kind of the opposite … As the year has been going on, I’ve seen him improving a lot. He’s starting to wear shirts to school. He likes to make fun of my style, like ironing my shirt before going to the library to study.”
Anyone who has been to a game at the Eccles Ice Center knows these two feed off each other. They’ve helped improve each other's game, in aspects such as quicker hands for Hepburn and better body checking for Lindquist. Hepburn described and recalled the Swede’s hitting style when he first started playing for the Aggies.
“The first few times he did it, he looked really bad,” Hepburn said. “He would hit with his chin and his chest, but he’s been just crushing guys lately. It looks real good. It looks like he’s been doing it his whole life. I think he is really enjoying it. I think he likes the violence.”
It may have taken both of these individuals traveling halfway around the world to meet, but the relationship and bond they constructed on an outdoor skating rink in a Scandinavian winter is the relationship and bond they hold as they travel to compete in Boston for a national championship.
“We have the connection on the team being some of the only LDS guys,” Lindquist said. “Stew will surprise you. He’s a great friend of mine, and I’m grateful to play in Logan.”
Hepburn is a senior this year with plans to graduate and move on to medical school this coming fall. Lindquist is a freshman and looks to spend four years in Cache Valley fighting for the Aggies on the ice.