It was a long and winding professional career for veteran NHLer Sean Bergenheim, one that saw him lace up the skates in seven different pro leagues and play over 500 games in the NHL.
But after 15 years of living life on the road the former New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild winger has returned to his native Finland and he’s challenging himself in a game that’s even nastier and tougher than hockey: politics.
The 35 year old Bergenheim recently announced his candidacy for a seat in the Finnish Parliament elections this April. Bergenheim is running under the Swedish People’s Party, a small party formed with the intention of protecting Swedish language rights in Finland, for a seat in the Uusimaa election district.
“We’ve had huge cuts in our education in Finland, which is what we’re known for — having the best education in the world,” Bergenheim said in an interview with The Athletic’s Katie Strang. “They’ve cut so much. My party feels this has to stop. That’s one issue that I feel (made) this party right for me.”
For Bergenheim, there’s nothing more important that education. It’s what he feels enables him to be successful in life himself. “It was big for me. My mom wouldn’t let me play hockey if I couldn’t go to school and have really good results in school. I’m really thankful for that,” Bergenheim said. “I value it. I think it’s really important for kids. I think that a good education is the key to a successful nation.”
Bergenheim realizes that he’ll face some criticism as a rookie politician in the upcoming election, but he sees the parallels between his former career and his new calling.
“Teamwork is the first thing that comes to mind. you have to work on a team to get things done,” Bergenheim said. “To be a professional athlete, you have to work hard and you have to never really give up. You know if you are going to get something done you really have to work for it.
“I think it’s the same thing in politics. If you want to get something done, it’s not going to come easy.”
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