Lofquist spends winter playing in Swiss league
Sam Lofquist continues to see the world while playing hockey.
Lofquist spent the 2017-18 season playing for EHC Biel-Bienne in the Swiss National League. The previous season was spent with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.
Lofquist, a Somerset native, completed his most recent season two weeks ago when EHC Biel was defeated in the second round of the Swiss National League playoffs.
Lofquist's hockey journey started in Somerset youth hockey. It has taken him to Shattuck-St. Mary's, the University of Minnesota, the Guelph Storm in Canada, the Houston Aeros and South Carolina Stingrays. That's when Lofquist's career took him to Europe, starting in the 2011-12 season. Lofquist, 28, spent several seasons playing in Sweden. That led into playing in Russia in the 2016-17 season and in Sweden this winter.
EHC Biel was one of the surprises in the Swiss National League this winter. Lofquist said the team entered the season considered a borderline playoff contender. EHC Biel ended up taking third place in the regular season. In the first round of the league playoffs, Biel defeated Davos in six games. Biel was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, losing to Lugano in six games.
Lofquist and his wife, Cacilie, returned to the United States on April 10, residing in Florida. The Lofquists welcomed their first child, a son named Thor, on Monday.
One of the highlights for Lofquist this winter was being selected for the Spengler Cup Swiss team. This large tournament is the oldest international hockey tournament in existence. Canada, Russia and four European countries competed in this year's tournament.
Unfortunately, the tournament was memorable for Lofquist because of injuries he suffered in successive games. He was smashed in the mouth in one game, chipping off two teeth and having two others knocked back in his mouth. This required three root canals and Lofquist said he'll need further surgery in six months to complete getting his teeth back into place.
Lofquist was still ready to play in the next round of the tournament. In that game, he suffered a broken thumb, causing him to miss several weeks of the season.
Lofquist said living in Switzerland was an easy adjustment for him and his wife. He said the previous year in Russia was much more challenging because few people knew any English.
"It forced me to learn more of the language," Lofquist said.
Lofquist said the Russian city where he had played had been closed to the outside world through the 1990s because it held a great deal of military intelligence. He said there were numerous times when he was the first American that city residents had ever met.
"It was unique for me. The people were really nice," Lofquist said of his stay in Russia.
Lofquist isn't sure yet where he'll be playing next season. The Torpedo still owns his KHL rights. He said the KHL and the Swiss National League are the top two leagues and it would be his preference to play in one of those two next year. Training camp for both teams is slated to begin in July.
One of Lofquist's teammates this season was former Minnesota Wild forward Robbie Earl. Wisconsin hockey fans will remember Earl as one of the standouts for the 2006 Wisconsin Badgers that won the 2006 NCAA men's hockey national championship.