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'He's a personality': Meet the Coquitlam Express' first European player

Kasper Walther-Sneve is from Oslo, Norway, where he scored a hat trick in his first game in that country's top league

Kasper Walther-Sneve isn't missing Brunost, a brown cheese favoured in his native Norway for breakfast, lunch or snacks.


Rather, two weeks into training camp with the Coquitlam Express, the 19-year-old is embracing the lifestyle and challenges of settling into his new home in Canada, exploring all the fast food options in the Tri-Cities and eyeing the area's lush, green golf courses, where he likes to spend his downtime.

And judging by the smiles and kibitzing all around at a recent practice, Walther-Sneve's new teammates have embraced him just as enthusiastically.

"He's a personality," said Express general manager Tali Campbell.

Walther-Sneve, who's from Oslo, is the BC Hockey League team's first European player, allowed now that the junior circuit has severed ties with Hockey Canada which has restrictive rules about where the country's junior leagues can draw their players.

The team also signed Dan Harkimo, of Sipoo, Finland, in July.

Walther-Sneve said even as he worked his way up through minor and junior hockey in Norway's club system with Valerenga, eventually earning a brief two-game taste with the parent pro club in the country's elite Fjordkraft-ligaen, he'd always dreamed of being able to play college hockey in the United States.

So when an agent contacted him about new opportunities in the BCHL, that's become something of an incubator for NCAA-bound talent and now allows teams to sign up to two European players, he set the wheels in motion.

"It was just so tempting to try something new," Walther-Sneve said. "I was done with high school as well and this seemed like a great opportunity for me."

With the support of both his parents, Walther-Sneve departed Oslo on Aug. 28, toting two huge duffel bags — one with all his hockey equipment and the other with the rest of his worldly possessions.

Days later, he was on the ice at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex.

Walther-Sneve said the tempo of hockey in the BCHL is faster than he was used to in Norway. But his experience and deliberate style of play allow him to bring a sense of calmness to the frenzy.

"I probably think it's moving a little bit faster than it actually is," he said.

Getting a taste of playing at the highest level in Norway, where Walther-Sneve scored a hat trick in his first game, also exposed him to the kind of ice smarts and puck awareness required to succeed in the sport that should serve him well in his new environs.

"I felt like you don't really have to move as much," Walther-Sneve said. "You just have to move to the right spaces where you can get the puck and make a quick play."

Walther-Sneve said the nine-hour time difference between the West Coast and Norway makes it challenging to keep his family apprised of his new life. Not that he has much time for long phone calls home between on-ice training, workouts at the gym and getting to know the Tri-Cities.

But, said Walther-Sneve, he wouldn't mind finding some of the brown cheese he so loves.

"It's good for waffles and strawberry jam," he said.

Upcoming games

The Express closes out its exhibition schedule on Friday, Sept. 15 when the Surrey Eagles visit the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex at 7 p.m.

The team's regular season opens a week later, Sept. 22, against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, 7 p.m. at Poirier.

Changes for minor hockey involvement

The BCHL's departure from Hockey Canada and BC Hockey has forced its teams to make changes to their on-ice activities involving minor hockey players because of rules prohibiting them from participating in unsanctioned activities.

Instead of skating out with players during the announcements of starting lineups, participants in the Express' 7th Player program will still get a signed jersey, tour of the dressing room, a meet-and-greet with the team and the opportunity to watch warm-ups from ice level.

As well, they'll get the chance to drop a ceremonial opening face-off.

"We understand the importance of fostering a strong relationship with minor hockey players who dream of one day wearing the Express jersey," said a statement on the team's website. 

"The 7th Player Program serves as a bridge between our team and these young athletes, encouraging their passion for the sport and providing them with a glimpse into the world of junior hockey."