Although less than ten minutes southeast of Oslo in the best traffic, Manglerud may as well be on another planet. In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Norway’s capital city, the tiny borough is one of just three that straddles the picturesque wildlife preserve of Lake Østensjøvannet. Manglerud also happens to be the home of one of YouTube’s biggest hockey stars of the moment- a ten-year-old by the name of Mathias Emilio Pettersen. Find out more about this extraordinary young man in a special weekday edition of Bugg Bytes.
As in most of the Nordic countries, sports- football in the summer, hockey in the winter- are a major part of life in Norway, and especially in Manglerud. Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Sondre Olden and Blackhawks prospect Mathis Olimb, among others, cut their teeth in the Manglerud Stars organization before their careers took them to Sweden.
However, for most of those playing in Eliteserien- Norway’s highest men’s league- the dream of playing professionally elsewhere remains just that: a dream. Chosen to represent his country at the 1994 B World Junior Championships, Oslo native Flemming Pettersen was one such player. A star with Manglerud after posting seasons of 45, 44 and 27 points in the Eliteserien, Pettersen was just 26 when the birth of his son forced him to reconsider his priorities.
“When he was born I quit playing because in Norway you can’t raise a family on (a) hockey salary,” said Pettersen during an exclusive interview with DobberHockey.
Born in April of 2000, Mathias Emilio Pettersen was alive for just fifteen months before his father would introduce him to ice skating for the first time.
“We could see very early that he had extremely (good) physical control... he took (to) it very well without any help, which was a little bit strange at that age.”
But young Mathias Emilio had more surprises in store.
“When he was six years old he could play with players that (were) three years older than him and nobody (could) catch him,” recalls Flemming.
Indeed, Mathias Emilio has never played with players his age; the closest he’s come is this season with Manglerud’s U12 team, and that’s only because new rules forbid young players from playing with those more than two years older.
However, there’s plenty of evidence that Mathias Emilio should be the exception. During the 2008-09 season, when he was just eight years old, Pettersen recorded an astounding 152 goals and 249 points in just 65 contests. The next season would see him net 113 goals and 190 points in fifty games. Thus far this year, he has 61 goals in just 21 appearances.
Pettersen’s scoring rampages are not just coming against those from his corner of the hockey world; in a U12 tournament earlier this month that featured talent from such elite hockey schools such as Färjestad in Sweden, the youngster netted twelve goals and fifteen points in six games to finish first and second in each category, respectively.
For those who have seen Pettersen’s stunning YouTube clips, it’s easy to believe he’s merely a puck hog, but his proud papa begs to differ. “This year I have seen that his (passing game) will grow when his teammates (get) better and better.”
And it will continue to improve. Just a short walk from the rink near his house, Mathias Emilio is never really away from the ice- at his choosing.
“We do a lot of exercises like shooting in the backyard, special power skating drills before school, and he likes very much to see highlights from NHL... to learn the “tricks” and the game. He also likes to draw drills... on (how) to make moves... he sees on TV or (the) Internet. When he sees a nice move or something he will try it right away.”
In addition to hockey, Mathias Emilio also possesses an obviously apparent gift for soccer- as evidenced by clips Flemming recorded of his son’s matches with a youth club from the storied Vålerenga sports club in Olso. When put together- the practices, the videos, Mathias Emilio’s participation in specialized Swedish hockey camps- criticism about creating unnecessary expectations and pressure will likely be sure to follow in the months and years ahead.
However, this kind of documentation is nothing new; ever since Walter Gretzky filmed his son’s first forays on skates, the trend of parents documenting- and sharing- the athletic feats of their children has boomed with the advent of personal recording devices. The difference here? Whereas before such video would have been shown to visiting relatives in the family den, parents like Flemming can upload it for thousands- or in his case, over 130,000- people to see.
In the end, it’s Flemming himself who had the most sobering comments about his son’s future. He downplays talk of Mathias Emilio possessing some sort of ethereal talent for the game and opened our interview almost cautiously.
“Have in your mind that this is a 10-year-old kid (who) happens to have a nice gift, but things can change fast.”