Sarnia’s Chris and Cam Abbott are basking in the glow of a European championship.
The brothers helped capture the Champions Hockey League title Feb. 3 when their Lulea team scored four unanswered goals in third period to beat Frolunda 4-2 in an all-Swedish final.
Cam drew an assist on the first Lulea goal, while Chris was held off the score sheet.
The final was the culmination of a three-month, 44-team tournament to determine European hockey club-team supremacy.
Lulea went 5-1 in the group stage, before beating teams from Austria, Finland and the top-ranked team from the Swedish Elite League in home-and-home aggregate score playoffs to reach the final.
True to form, the twins ended up with identical stats through the tournament, each registering three goals and seven assists in 12 games.
The tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Mathis Olimb, is a former member of the Sarnia Sting. He had eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points for Frolunda, the franchise that produced NHLers Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Lundqvist.
Chris Abbott said the Swedish Elite League is considered the world’s second best league outside the National Hockey League, behind only the KHL. And he believes most teams from the Swedish league can beat teams from the Russian league on any given night.
“Cracking the lineup here (in Sweden) is a lot tougher than most people realize,” he said. “With the big ice, it’s imperative that everybody can skate, and I think there’s more respect for fellow players here than in North America.”
At 31, the twins haven’t given up on the dream of playing in the NHL although it is becoming a long shot, Chris Abbott said.
“To come back and play in North America, it would have to be a one-way (contract) with an NHL team and there’s not many of those available,” he said. “We wouldn’t come back to play in the AHL in hopes of working our way up.”
He and his brother are content with the lifestyle and hockey calibre experienced the past six seasons in the northern town of 46,000 people, about 150 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, he said.
They hope to renew contracts with Lulea that are set to expire at the end of this season, in early March.
“We’re waiting to hear from the team,” said Chris Abbott. “But if they still want us, we’d like to stay.”
Lulea currently sits eighth in the 12-team league.
Though far from home, Chris Abbott said he often thinks of coaches in Sarnia who were instrumental in shaping he and his brother as players and people.
In particular, he credits D’Arcy Bell, Brad Drury and Rob Kardas.
“I hope they understand how important they have been to us,” he said. “We owe them a lot.”