Twins turn Luleå into hockey power.
Canadian twins Cam and Chris Abbott are helping lead Luleå back to prominence in the Elitserien.
The road to hockey stardom has been a twisting, at times National Lampoon-like path for twins Cameron and Chris Abbott.
The Canadian duo landed at Luleå last spring after two years playing for Rögle. Although Rögle didn't place high in the Elitserien, the brothers were clearly the class of the now-relegated team. Cam Abbott finished the 2009-2010 season with 35 points in 48 games and a career-high 108 penalty minutes. Brother Chris Abbott had 33 points as they anchored the top line at Rögle.
The brothers joined Luleå as free agents as leagues across Scandinavia lined up to vie for their services. Rumors had them going back to Norway, they played for the Frisk Asker Tigers in 2007-08, Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Instead, Luleå, a perennial playoff team in the Elitserien, won the bidding war for the twins and immediately put high expectations on the 27 year olds from Sarnia, Ontario. Luleå general manager Lars Bergström said the team expected the twins to replace former NHL forwards Jonathan Hedström and Robin Lindqvist, who left after last season.
So far, the twins have earned their contracts. Each Abbott has 12 points through 20 games as they play on LHF’s top line and Luleå holds a three-point lead at the top of the Elitserien standings.
"Of course we realized that we had to work hard to try to replace them and the Abbott brothers; we know that we have succeeded,” Bergström said. “They are two really sharp players and also work great together as a unit. Chris and Cam have a high profile image and we are very, very happy that they have chosen Luleå Hockey as a good environment for their future career.”
The Abbotts said Luleå offered the brothers the chance to take the next steps in their intertwined careers.
“Chris and I have seen how Luleå plays, and we really like what we have seen,” Cam Abbott said. “Luleå has played disciplined and is a hard working team. We know that we want to be part of the team. It is as simple as that.”
One thing the brothers said they wanted to bring to Luleå was a renewed emphasis on winning, not just performing well.
“We play to win, it's our only focus,” Cam Abbott said. “We obviously want to do that in Luleå also. The mentality, I hope we can contribute. In addition, we can hopefully bring speed, power and energy.”
The brothers’ focus on the mental aspect of hockey isn’t just words. Swedish players can take on an almost humble mindset, something more than one non-Swede has noticed.
“I would not use the word humble directly. Some players set sights high and say publicly that they will win,” Cam Abbott said. “It may be a cultural difference but from what I experienced before, there are some players who are not willing to work hard enough to put his name on the line and say, ‘We shall overcome.’ I think the players show more respect for each other here. There’s not as many grabbing and dirty tricks as in North America."
Although neither would come out and say it, the mindset at Rögle—more than poor results—might have cost the team the chance to remain in the Elitserien. Chris Abbott said he thinks the brothers’ work ethic and determination to win can help Luleå avoid that fate.
“We play hockey with great energy and hard work and apparently Luleå Hockey thinks we can help,” he said. “We always have high goals and really want to contribute in any way we can.”
The Abbotts skate on Luleå’s first line with another first-year LHF player, Finnish winger Joonas Vihko. Chris centers the line while Cam plays on left wing. The brothers joke the only way to tell them apart is to notice which shoots with which hand.
“Chris is the right shot, I am left-handed,” Cam said.
The brothers say their individual style of play complements one another, making them even more formidable.
“We are very equal in terms of games, but you will probably see that he shoots more often, while I'm looking to pass,” Chris Abbott said. “Cam has a natural talent for making goals and is really sharp around the net. He plays with speed and has a strong will.”
“Chris is a really good two-way player,” Cam Abbott said. “He’s capable of actually playing against the opposition country's best unit and is a really strong skater.”
Getting to Luleå, however, wasn’t quite as easy as the brothers want fans to believe. Their two years at Rögle were grueling as Rögle struggled simply to remain in the Allsvenskan. The year at Frisk introduced the brothers to Scandinavia. The year before was very nearly a comedy film.
The Abbotts turned pro after playing for (and graduating from) Cornell University. They signed with Stockton of the ECHL in October 2006 and prepared to start their pro careers. After just a pair of games, Stockton traded the twins to Bakersfield.
Four days after they arrived in the high California desert city, thieves broke into their car and stole phones and wallets. That same day Bakersfield traded the twins to the Las Vegas team, which just happened to be playing Bakersfield.
Chris Abbott played in that game and took a hit from behind, injuring a hand. (Keep in mind, he'd been on the opposing team the day before). He went on Las Vegas’ injured reserve list. Las Vegas then dealt Cam to Long Beach, saying they would pick up Chris when he was healthy.
Cam Abbott rode with the Las Vegas team to Long Beach, suited up for Long Beach, and played against Las Vegas. One week later, both signed with the Shreveport Mudhens, where they spent a year before moving to Europe. Now with Luleå, the brothers said they still have their eyes set on bigger things.
“Getting to the NHL has always been the major target and there are different paths to get there,” Cam Abbott said. “We had only one season as a professional home that was both up and down, so we made a tryout contract in Norway and got a spot on the team. On the way it is.”
By Chipp Reid