I'm At Home Here

by Gustaf Westlund

We weren’t ready for the jump. Not at all. I was at a crossroads.

The idea of making it in Swedish pro hockey for real seemed cool, but it’s really tough to make that jump. I have a bunch of friends who got caught playing in very low tiers for so long they really had nothing else to fall back on. They’re not making enough money to actually live on. So they get a part-time job elsewhere. That works when you’re 20 through 30, hopefully, but it’s not really going to work in the long run.

My parents really wanted me to get the best of both worlds. Go to college and play sports. The only way to do that was to come over here. You leave both doors open and no options behind.

It was a tough decision. I’m not going to lie to you. It was a tough decision to make. With all the information at hand, I really made the right choice.

Every day over here makes me feel like it was the right choice.

I did feel like I was missing out on something my first year in America. That was my senior year back home in Stockholm and all my childhood friends were graduating and spending the last few months together. They were really having a great time. I missed out on that.

After high school, everybody really goes on their own adventure. That’s pretty much what I did. I just did it a year earlier by enrolling at Gunnery Prep School in Connecticut.

I had to learn by the day how classes worked. How American society worked. How the hockey here worked. Back home, we played for one team nine months a year. At Gunnery I ended up playing hockey for three months. I had to go to school and played two other sports too.

I found each side held each other accountable, which was a good thing because back home they never really worked together.

I kind of got a new spark in me when I moved over here. I started getting really into hockey again. Don’t get me wrong, it was always fun. I never lost the spirit of hockey, but actually putting more time and focus on it was definitely the right move.

Coming to the U.S. was definitely the right move.

I ended up being at Gunnery for a year, graduated, and then got drafted into the USHL. I played for Lincoln for two years and ended up coming to Columbus.

I actually ended up committing to Michigan first. I don’t know if anyone knew that. But a new coach came in and they decided to go with his recruited players. At the time I was disappointed. I thought things were going to turn out differently.

I’m glad they didn’t.

I didn’t even know that the two are huge rivals. I learned quickly. For sure.

This last season, we beat Michigan three out of four times. So I ended up on the right end of that spectrum.

I’m so happy to be a Buckeye today. And now that I’m here, I’m really grateful for those three years before because I felt way more prepared.

I still feel way more prepared for what’s to come.

My parents always ask me when I’m back home in Sweden, “are you still happy you did this?” Looking back on it, I’m really grateful I had the opportunity and I definitely chosen the right path.

I’m very proud of myself, looking back on it. It wasn’t an easy decision to make at 17. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but it’s been the best solution to the problem I had.

Every day I’ve been facing life on my own, and I feel prepared.

Even better, I feel at home in more than one place.

Ohio State Buckeyes Gustaf Westlund