UNLV’s Viktor Brask with super fan Kat Craner before a game

====

By Bethany Drysdale

City National Arena is a busy place any day of the week, and last Friday night was no exception. Blake and I arrived about 5PM to catch the end of a youth tournament and wait for the arrival of Viktor Brask. The UNLV Rebels had their game against Grand Canyon University that night at 7:30PM, so Viktor was kind enough to sit down for a few questions prior to warm-ups. He walked into the usual doors that lead to the City National Arena and Blake noticed him first. With his polite demeanor, Viktor waved and said he needed to drop off his equipment in the locker room, but he would be right out to talk with us at the tables in the hallway.

When he came out to sit with us, I noticed his blue suit, bowtie, and big smile. I thanked him for taking the time to talk with us ahead of game. Blake, who had his own pencil and small notebook, started off the questions with, “What is your favorite snack?” Viktor has given dozens of interviews over the years and answered the pressing question of a two year old with a serious, “Well that would have to be Swedish Fish.”

Blake said thank you and concluded his interview.

Now it was my turn to ask the questions. I have to admit, I was nervous talking to Viktor. We have chatted several times in the past, but today he was my first interview.

Brask, a 25 year old forward, is in his junior year studying international business. This is his third year with the UNLV Skating Rebels. He began his journey in hockey at the age of five in his hometown of Sigtuna, Sweden, just north of Stockholm. It was here he and childhood friend and current Golden Knight, William Karlsson played together.

Although their paths went in different directions, the two remained friends and now practice on the same ice, a half a world away from where they began. No matter what level Brask has played, it is his physical presence on the ice that stands out. He is 6’2” (without skates) and 220 pounds of force on the ice. Size alone can only bring a player so far in their career, being a student of the game is just as important, he tells me. For younger players coming up in hockey, he says to study film and watch where the puck goes when it hits off the boards or posts. Follow up on rebound opportunities for more scoring chances and play smart hockey.

When it comes to Vegas as a growing hockey city, I am always curious what it is about the UNLV program that attracts young players. For Brask, it was a chance to live in a big city, at a reasonable cost and still play hockey on a Division 1 level. In 2015-16, he spent a year playing at Dakota College at Bottineau, a small college in North Dakota.

After that year, he reached out to UNLV Coach Greener about playing hockey in Las Vegas for the 2016-17 season. At the time, UNLV was ACHA Division 2. Brask played 35 games, with 25 goals and 35 assists. The following year, UNLV made the jump to Division 1, with Brask playing 26 games, 5 goals and 6 assists.

Now into his third season with UNLV, he continues to be a positive playmaker and leader for the Rebels.

It is often overlooked that student-athletes are expected to perform on the ice as well as in the classroom. This past summer, Viktor interned with TJ Maxx Corporation in Las Vegas. By taking the summer to advance his education, he gave up time back home to see his family in Sweden. He told me his father is his biggest fan and he is very close with his mother. His father waits for the link that live streams each game and watches very early in the morning. A 7:30PM game in Vegas is a 4:30AM game for the Brask family in Sweden. They made the trip to see him play last fall, and it is time with them that means the most to Viktor. He remains open to any future in hockey, and will stay in the United States for at least a year after graduation to pursue opportunities in international business.

His personal outlook is to have fun and stay open to whatever life comes his way.