In the northern city of Luleå nestled up near the Arctic Circle, identical twin brothers make their living in the Swedish Hockey League. They are veterans in their early 30s, pillars of the team. One, a center, is Luleå’s captain and a playmaker. The other is on left wing, more of a scorer. They have, most of their lives, played on the same line.
The story of Chris and Cam Abbott is something of a reverse-image version of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the identical twins from Sweden who have long starred for the Vancouver Canucks. The Abbotts, however, are unknown to most hockey fans in their native country.
Born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario in a family of boat builders and Olympic sailors, the twins gravitated to hockey. They played at and graduated from Cornell University before finding their way to professional hockey success in Europe.

Twins in hockey
In sports, a number of identical twins have risen to prominence and top-tier success. Twins have generally become more common in recent decades, rising from 2 percent to about 3 percent of births in the United States, but identical twins remain rare, roughly a tenth of all twins, around 0.3 percent of all births.
The Sedins and the Bryan brothers in doubles tennis are among the best known today. “We have a bond that is difficult to understand,” said Chris Abbott in an interview from Luleå. “We’re extremely close. We’ve been best friends our whole lives.”
The 31-year-old Abbotts, while they never reached the National Hockey League, have enjoyed success throughout their hockey careers, from the Sutherland Cup in Ontario Junior B as teenagers to conference championships at Cornell and, in recent years, solid seasons in Luleå. In 2011-12, the club finished first in the Swedish Hockey League, but lost in the playoff quarter-finals. In 2012-13, Luleå was third and reached the finals but lost.
The 5-foot-9 Abbotts are central to Luleå’s success. They lead their club in regular-season scoring — Chris has 12 goals and 29 points in 44 games, and Cam has 11 goals and 26 points in 43 games. Luleå has struggled somewhat in Swedish League play, standing eighth of 12, but still in the playoff race.
The twins’ style of play is hard-driving hustle, strong in the corners and in front of the net. “Number one is they always work,” their coach, Joakim Fagervall, said.
“You can see the connection, especially in the offensive zone,” Fagervall added. “Around the net, they know where they have each other.” Fagervall is in his first season as Luleå coach. “I still have problems to separate them. I have to look at the numbers sometimes.”
Off the ice, the Abbotts have been embraced by their adopted city. They both speak Swedish fairly well, and Chris is the first captain of the team who is from outside Luleå, never mind outside Sweden. The city, with a population of about 50,000, is a hub for steel-making and information technology.
“They’re part of our city and our culture,” Luleå general manager Thor Stockel said.


From water to ice
The Abbotts have made their life on ice while the family tradition is on the water. Their grandfather William Abbott started a boat-building business in the 1950s. Their father, Bill Abbott, later took over; he and wife, Joanne, competed in 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and then he competed with his brother, Matt, in 2000 in Sydney. The twins' sister, Katie, sailed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The brothers’ interests beyond the rink are eclectic and hands-on — woodworking and hunting for moose around Luleå. But when their grandfather overcame cancer late last decade, he resolved with his grandsons to do something bigger: build a plane. They bought a kit for $30,000 or so, and piled in a bunch more money over the years as they slowly pieced a BushCaddy (similar to a Cessna 180) together. “One of the first rules of building a kit plane,” Cam advised, “is never, ever add up all the receipts.”
The labor of love was finished in 2013, and this summer they’ll install floats on the plane so they can fly it to the family cottage in northern Ontario.
“Overpowering,” Cam said of the feeling of first flying the plane. “We know where every bolt and nut is, how every piece of metal is fastened and put together. There’s a different appreciation than if you fly in a plane someone else built. It’s exhilarating.”
As teenagers, the twins had a shot at the Ontario Hockey League with their hometown Sarnia Sting, but they had their minds more on college scholarships, so they played Junior B. After Cornell, there was one season in the deepest minors in North America, when they lit up the Central Hockey League for the now-defunct Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. “You’re not exactly on the NHL radar at that point,” Cam joked.
The twins turned to Europe and arranged a tryout in Norway, played one season there and thereafter landed in Sweden. They’ve played for Luleå six seasons.
“They can almost finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes do,” Cornell’s long-time hockey coach Mike Schafer said. “On the ice, they have that sense for each other — and they’re absolutely tenacious.”

By Chipp Reid