Fashion-conscious since he was 8, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson appreciated the clothing his grandparents bought for him as a child in Sweden.
Ekman-Larsson was the talk of the town with his stylish duds. Now, nearly 18 years later, he’s balancing hockey and fashion with OEL of Sweden, a clothing line that focuses on underwear, hats and T-shirts. Founded by Ekman-Larsson and two buddies in 2013, OEL is targeting his generation.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ekman-Larsson says via telephone from Sweden, where he spent his offseason. “It’s fun to see your name on a hat and underwear and stuff.”
He’s also proud to have it on the back of a Coyotes’ jersey, or “sweater” to diehard hockey fans. Ekman-Larsson has been with the Coyotes since he was drafted sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 200-pound player ranks eighth in the NHL with seven game-winning goals, earning him the nickname “OTL” for “overtime Larsson” by his teammates. Sticking with his countrymen, he has long admired defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who played 20 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings.
“My idol Nick Lidstrom played for a long time,” Ekman-Larsson says. “I would love to do the same. He’s the best D-man who ever played the game.”
Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona to prepare for the regular season, which begins Friday, October 9, in Los Angeles against the Kings. The ‘yotes return to Gila River Arena in Glendale the following day to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think we have great fans in Glendale and Arizona,” Ekman-Larsson says. “I’m super excited to go back there and play in front of the fans.”
The team has added several new—and returning—players to the roster, namely Antoine Vermette who played for the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks before re-signing with the ‘yotes for two years. A slew of rookies is also part of the rebuild.
Ekman-Larsson is cautious when commenting on his hopes for the 2015-16 season.
“It’s kind of early to say,” says the 24-year-old. “I have really seen the players we got this offseason so ar. We have to get back to the style of hockey that Dave Tippett wants us to play—that’s a defending style of hockey and we have to get back to that. That’s the challenge.”
When he’s not playing hockey, he can be found on the golf course, or checking out his clothes at Behind the Mask and the Ice Den. He yearns to have his clothing in stores throughout the world. He gets excited when he says, “Almost every kid in my hometown wears the hat. So it’s really cool.”
“It’s not easy to get clothing into stores and stuff like that,” says Ekman-Larsson, who gets pumped up listening to fellow Swedes ABBA and Avicii, naturally. He could be kidding about ABBA, as Ekman-Larsson has a dry sense of humor.
In contrast to the fast-paced world of hockey, Ekman-Larsson finds running OEL of Sweden relaxing.
“It’s fun to have something else besides hockey,” says Ekman-Larsson, who admires David Beckham’s penchant for fashion.
“When I’m home here during Sweden in the offseason, it’s just fun to clear your mind a little bit and focus on something else. When I stop playing hockey, I will probably do something with my brand.”
Like Lidstrom, he wants to play into his 40s.
“Obviously, I want to do it for a couple years,” he says with a sly grin that’s evident in his voice. “No, I would love to play until I’m 40 or even longer. You can’t really say how long you’re going to play because injuries and stuff play in. I would love to play for a long time.”