He watched the forty shots he faced in the match on video. Nizze Landén, the goalkeeping coach of the Swedish juniors, explained to him frame by frame what he could have done better in the goal area.
When it was all over, Linus Söderström objected: “At 2:03 of the second period, I got one more shot, you forgot about it.”
It’s a curse, but also a gift.
When the goalkeeper, who has now earned his first call-up to the senior national team, was seven years old, he learned of the diagnosis. Asperger’s syndrome, or autistic spectrum disorder, plus the neurodevelopmental disorder ADHD, which is usually associated with impulsivity, hyperactivity or restlessness.
If Söderström wasn’t interested in something – for example school – he couldn’t pay attention to it. On the other hand, he loved hockey and managed to use his exceptionality to his advantage.
The almost two-meter-tall habán is an ordinary guy, and at first glance you definitely don’t know what he’s dealing with. He turned twenty-seven in the summer, he is independent, he is not afraid to speak in public, he has a perfect command of English.
Moreover, it is not at all easy to shoot him in the goal.
When he is on the ice, there is only hockey for him. He can concentrate like few others, it is practically impossible to throw him off.
“For example, he reads angles very well, he knows how to move. We always prepared the defensive scheme according to him,” recalls Rikard Grönborg, the later coach of the Swedish A team, who led Söderström in the youth selections.
They don’t celebrate the New Year
But he still required an individual approach. He went to a special school, where even three teachers at a time took care of small groups of pupils. He often had to endure bullying from his teammates, but he steeled himself. He just refocused on himself.
When the representative manager at the junior championship sent the hockey players to the city for a drink after the win, an upset Söderström ran to Landén saying that he didn’t want to go anywhere. “I sent him to bed. What about the fact that it was New Year’s Eve…,” smiles the goalkeeping coach.
Söderström almost made it to the NHL. He was selected by the New York Islanders in the draft, but he only caught in the lower leagues and returned to Europe after two years overseas. He didn’t last in Finland, he wasted his covid years. He was troubled in his head more than before. “I was in a bad way. Even when I was physically healthy, I couldn’t play properly,” he admits.
On the other hand, it dominates in the Swedish Skellefteå.
Looking at the statistics, it is hard to believe that the team from the north did not make it to the home title last season. He kept a clean sheet five times in the playoffs, and carried his great form into the new season. He is doing great both in the field of goals conceded (only 1.6 per match) and in the success rate of saves (93.2 percent).
It’s actually surprising that he hasn’t had a chance in the yellow and blue jersey among the adults. The bosses of the Swedish native need not worry that he might not be able to cope with the pressure of international encounters.
If he is in goal from the opening minute on Thursday at the Karjala Cup, don’t be surprised if he makes the match damn uncomfortable for the Czech raiders.
“I want to be a role model for others. To send the message to children that such a life is difficult, but there is no reason not to enjoy it,” says Söderström.
He would be happy if people with the same diagnosis did not have to face similar problems as him. He was annoyed when those around him thought that open conversations about autism spectrum disorders were something undesirable.
“Society should start treating Asperger’s syndrome as a special talent, that would be a step forward,” wishes the talented Swede.