Prior to joining Sabers, Rasmus Asplund had a career as a motocross racer

BUFFALO — On his dirt bike, Rasmus Asplund said he almost felt like he was whisked away to a different world. The Sabers winger was hitting speeds of 60mph and soaring high in the air as he accelerated through the rough track.

Being a competitive motocross racer was fun.

“Maybe it’s a little dangerous, the speeds, the jumps,” Asplund told The Times Herald after Monday’s practice at KeyBank Center.

Long before Asplund, a tenacious presence on the ice, joined the Sabers, he raced dirt bikes in his native Sweden, becoming one of the best in the country in his age group.

Asplund, 24, said his father, Stefan, “a big motorcycle guy” who raced snowmobiles, introduced him to motorsports.

“I’m also a huge motor enthusiast,” he said. “But I think I got it from him.”

Until he was 14 or 15, Asplund said he split his time between hockey and motocross. He always finished his hockey season before he started running and vice versa.

“It’s just a cycle I had when I was growing up,” he said.

Summer was racing season, and Asplund said he and his father were going to load his two dirt bikes onto their Mercedes Sprinter which they converted into a sleeper and travel all over Sweden.

“We were home Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then we were off for the race weekend, wherever the race was, Thursday through Sunday,” he said. “So those were pretty fun summers.”

Asplund compared the world of motocross in Sweden to “one big traveling family.”

“You meet a lot of new people, new friends and stuff,” he said. “So (at) the same time it’s also very competitive. So it’s a fun mix of people around you.

Asplund became one of the top young riders in the country, finishing between 10th and 15th at nationals for the 12-15 age group.

“So I guess I was pretty good,” he said.

But Asplund, one of hockey’s top prospects in his early teens, couldn’t devote himself entirely to motocross.

“The problem for me is that when I started playing hockey in August or September, all the other kids my age moved to Spain so they could run all year round,” he said. declared. “So I fell behind more and more over the years. I was obviously better at hockey, so it was quite natural to move into full-time hockey.

When Asplund joined the hockey organization Färjestad, he dropped out of the race. He said choosing hockey was an easy decision.

“I was one of the best guys in the country in hockey and all that, so it was only natural to choose hockey,” he said.

Still, Asplund said he misses the motocross life.

“Just the lifestyle, the way everything happened in this world was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot,” he said.

Asplund, of course, believes running has helped his hockey career. Riding left him alone on a stage, and if something went wrong, he couldn’t hide.

“Just in an individual sport like that, you can’t really hide behind anybody else or anything, it’s just you,” he said of the race. . “If you don’t perform or if (you don’t feel) good, it’s up to you. … So I think that’s a huge part that helped me a lot.

“Obviously, competition and all that, it’s only natural for me to compete, and it was the same in motocross.”

These days, Asplund can’t even ride for fun anymore. He got rid of his bikes years ago. But the runner still resides within him.

He said he was watching the AMA Supercross series in the United States. He also likes to use his knowledge of engines.

“I know a lot about engines, if something breaks down it doesn’t matter it’s a car or something, I usually have a pretty good idea what’s wrong,” he said. declared. “So that’s pretty cool. It’s a good thing to have in my backpack, I guess.

Late in Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 win, Sabers coach Don Granato handed rookie defenseman Owen Power what he called “responsibility” on the power play.

The Sabers, having opened a two-goal lead over the New York Islanders, were in no rush to score. So Granato felt it was a good time to let the 19-year-old Power experience his first extended power-play action in his sixth NHL game.

“It was a different situation late,” Granato said after the game. “We didn’t need to score. I called our guys up and said, ‘Hey, we can score and we probably have a better chance to score, but we’ll tactically do it this way, quickly.’

“And they executed, you saw us generate chances that we could have scored, probably better appearances than in previous power plays by being a little bit more patient, and Owen was a big part of that. We knew that he could handle that goal we set, he did a good job with it.

The Sabres, who play their last road game this season Thursday against the Boston Bruins, had a day off Tuesday.

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