Meet Emilio Pettersen: Norwegian teen begins US hockey career

Photo: Robb Brouillette / Omaha Lancers
Emilio Pettersen hits the ice with the Omaha Lancers.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

At the tender age of 14, Mathias Emilio Pettersen made a life-changing decision: he left behind his life in Norway—his friends and his family—and moved to the U.S. to pursue his promising hockey career.

The Manglerud native arrived in Connecticut in 2014, where he played two impressive seasons for the Selects Hockey Academy at South Kent School. In January 2016, he signed a tender with the Omaha Lancers, a team in the United States Hockey League—the country’s top junior ice hockey league for players under 20. He is also committed to the University of Denver, where he is expected to be drafted into the NHL as early as 2018.

Now 16, the Norwegian—who goes by Emilio—is living with a host family in Nebraska as he plays his first season for the Lancers. I had the chance to talk to him and learn more about his experience as a young Norwegian hockey player living in the U.S.

Molly Jones: What made you decide to leave Norway at the age of 14 to play hockey in the U.S.? What was that experience like?

Emilio Pettersen: When I made my decision to come over to the U.S., my thought process was to expand and improve my game as a hockey player—to become a better player overall. I wanted to see what it was like over here, and my parents supported me fully through the process.

MJ: How does playing in the U.S. compare to hockey in Norway?

EP: It is a much higher level of play and the speed is much faster. It is a smaller ice sheet in the U.S., and that gives you the opportunity to go to the net quicker and faster.

MJ: Why did you decide on the Omaha Lancers and University of Denver?

EP: I thought everything about Omaha and Denver fit me really well as a player and a person—not only the communities but also the coaches and staff members.

Photo: Robb Brouillette / Omaha Lancers

MJ: How do you feel you have improved throughout this season with the Lancers?

EP: It was a tough start to the season. It took a little bit for me to get used to everything. Being in school and all with hockey was tough, but I managed to use my time well, focusing on the things I need to focus on, and hockey will continue to improve with that.

MJ: You’ve been called the “new Zuccarello” and the “Martin Ødegaard of hockey.” How does that feel?

EP: It is obviously very flattering, but I am just trying to do what I need to do to improve everyday. If I continue to do that, then maybe one day that could be a possibility.

MJ: What are your goals for the future of your career? Do you feel a lot of pressure to make it into the NHL?

EP: I try to focus on where I am right now and what I could do to get better and help my teammates to win games and eventually to win the Clark cup with Omaha.

I try not to think about that [the NHL] as much as possible, and I am just trying to do my best every day. It is obviously a big long-term goal of mine.

MJ: What’s been your favorite part about living and competing in the U.S. so far?

EP: Just being with my friends and teammates. I have made a lot of memories and that has definitely been one of the best parts of living here the last few years.

MJ: What do you miss about Norway?

EP: I miss my family and friends, naturally, as well as the neighborhood back in Norway. Having a bunch of friends and a billet family here helps a lot though.

This article originally appeared in the March 10, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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