Back in 1974, the buzz of Hartford, Connecticut was that the new hockey league, the WHA, was coming to town. Finally, big league sports in Hartford! The Whalers invited my dad and me to their office to explain their business plan to us. We were the owners of a little car dealership in the suburbs of Simsbury, and my dad was very conservative, so I thought the likelihood of any business relationship with the new sports team in town would be a long shot. Besides, we were basketball guys who knew little about hockey.

We listened to the Whaler pitch. They proposed a six-car trade deal — with four team executives and the two new players from Sweden driving Mitchell cars in trade for advertising and season tickets to the games. We went to Franks for lunch after the presentation. My dad and George Dusharm, the Whalers marketing manager at the time, ordered wine and I ordered my usual Coke. We ate, and George and my dad started to negotiate a deal that would last the lifetime of the Whalers in Hartford. Some real fun years began.


The next day I was introduced to the up and coming hockey players from Leksand, Sweden — twin brothers, Tommy and Christer Abrahamsson. Having worked in Sweden when I was 16 and married to a Swede when I was 20, we had common ground and a lot to talk about. Tommy and Christer became our spokesmen and we started to make ads with the brothers pitching Volvos and Saabs on television — in Swedish! They were a big hit.

The first game in the new civic center was fantastic with Tommy the defenseman and beautiful skater, and Christer the tough goalie. For four years we had a lot of fun, and eventually I met their whole family when we visited Sweden. They played for the Whalers for those four years and pitched cars for us.

Over to 2014
Rolling the clock forward to 2014, Tommy is now a professional fisherman for "havskräftor" (ocean crayfish, Nephrops norvegicus, better known as langoustine or scampi), a Swedish favorite, on Sweden's west coast in the small fishing village Kungshamn. It happens to be the same little village where my Swedish “twin brother” (we share the same birthday) Anders and his wife Karen live.

For some years, Tommy and I have been talking about fishing in the North Sea in the middle of the night. This summer was my chance. I was traveling with my friend Barry, whom I hoped would go with us. Tommy said, “We meet at 2 a.m. at the boat. If you're not there, I'm leaving.” Barry was jet lagged so he passed on the offer, but no way was I not going to miss it.

Tommy and I met as planned. We left in Tommy's well-equipped fishing boat with plans to return with our catch by 10:00 the next morning. He fishes eight hours a night, five days a week, so I watched his fine navigation skills at work. He got out to the open sea and proceeded to drop the net. What an ordeal with winches and weights to get the net in exactly the proper position to catch the little bottom feeders. There really wasn't much I could do but marvel at the skill and hard work of this one-man band.

Calm conditions not so calm
The rolling of the North Sea in calm conditions was incredible. It was all I could do to keep my footing — and my lunch — as he danced from workstation to workstation. I marveled as Tommy navigated, controlled the net and planned every move. When it came time to take up the net after five hours, the work was just beginning.

The next project looked exhausting: bringing up the net in the pouring cold rain, winching the catch into the catch box, sorting the crayfish from the jellyfish, starfish and every other catchable item on the ocean floor. He sorted and discarded the waste back to the sea where the gulls were eagerly awaiting their midsummer smorgasbord. He next threw the catch into a cleaning barrel, and after boiling those succulent little honeys they were cast into an ice chest ready for the market. We made our voyage back to the dock and got some needed sleep.

Christer arrived after Karen had fixed a fabulous lunch with shrimp, crayfish and salad at the boathouse. It was great to see everyone and have a chance to tell this story.

Tommy, you where one of the best skaters I've ever seen. You fish like you skated with hard work and grace. I certainly have a new-found respect for what commercial fishing is all about, though I'll stick to selling Volvos. It was a night I will never forget. Tack så mycket, lycka till!

By Mark Mitchell