Englund set for role as captain of US team

Aug. 20, 2014, 3:15 p.m. (ET)

Josh Englund figures he’s in his rink hockey prime.

He’s 32 and coming off a broken ankle, but he’s still among the best players in the United States.

“Between 28 and 32 you still have the legs and you can still sprint, but you also have the mentality, the skills and the knowledge,” said Burlington’s Englund.

Englund’s physical skills and the experience he’s gained since picking up the sport at age 12 have earned him a spot on the 10-player U.S. team for the Men’s B Rink Hockey World Championships in November in Canelones, Uruguay.

Englund is no stranger to international competition.

With the exception of 2011 when he took time off to start a family, he has played on every U.S. world championships team since 2001.

That experience is one of the reasons Englund will serve as team captain at the world championships.

“It’s always nice,” he said of regaining a captain status he lost when he sat out the 2011 championships. “I enjoy being a leader for the new kids and the rookies coming up.”

Englund has plenty of wisdom to impart.

“It’s mainly the mental preparation. What to think and how to think before a game. You have to make sure you’re ready for it,” he said.

Englund’s last world championships didn’t go well.

With the U.S. playing among the best 16 teams in the world at the A championships in Angola, Englund broke his ankle on the second day of the tournament.

Injuries to two teammates followed and the U.S. finished 1-2 in its pool and failed to advance to the knockout round. As one of the bottom three teams in the tournament, the U.S. was dropped into the B classification.

Now the ankle is better. Certainly enough so that Englund made the national team at open tryouts in July in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“It’s getting better,” he said. “It may be 90 percent. It’s almost there. But I have to be careful and do the right things about it.”

Englund plays two or three days a week at Skagit Skate in Burlington. When big tournaments approach, he and other local players ramp up their schedule to five days a week.

Englund’s family owns Skagit Skate, so he’s always been around skating rinks.

Starting out as a speedskater, he and brother Adam competed against future Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno when they were kids.

“He always got first,” Englund said of Ohno.

At 12, Englund started playing rink hockey.

After high school, he moved to Portugal to play junior rink hockey, then went on to play professionally in Italy.

Playing in Europe — the hotbed of rink hockey — was where Englund really developed a passion for the sport.

“It took off,” he said. “It (playing in Europe) exposes you to so much more.”

He said he’s probably got two or three more world championships in him, but expects to play at least recreationally well into his 50s.

“I do it for the love of the sport,” he said. “It’s hard to put an age to that.”

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