For Buffalo Sabres forward Rasmus Asplund, his tattoos tell stories of the components of life that mean the most to him. From mementos of his childhood to ink paying homage to some of his favorite movies to other reflections on the ups and downs of life, Asplund uses his tattoos to mark various important moments and pieces of his life.
Now 24, Asplund got his first tattoo at the ripe age of 16 in his hometown of Filipstad, Sweden. In the nearly nine years since, he’s been building from there.
(Note: While laws in each of the United States do not permit tattooing before 18, Sweden doesn’t have any such legislation.)
When Asplund was younger, he never really planned on getting a tattoo, much less working on two arms’ worth of ink like he is now. But after his grandmother passed away, he decided to get his first tattoo in her memory.
“I wanted to do something for her,” he said. “She was a big part of my life, and a big part of who I am as a person and as a player today. So that’s how it started.”
“It was just a way for me to handle all the sorrow,” he said. “She was a big part of our whole family, especially me, and it was just a way for me to make sure I never forget what she’d done for me.”
When his grandfather later passed away, it was only fitting that he get another tattoo for him. From there, as he says, it just took off.
“I never really thought about doing anything before that,” he said. “Maybe I saw some cool pictures and stuff like that, but I always wanted my tattoos to mean something.”
Fast forward a few years, and Asplund now has a variety of pieces up and down his arms. Each arm has a theme, of sorts, with his right arm what he calls his ‘history sleeve.’ It features coordinates from where he grew up, as well as birthdays of his family members. On the back of his arm is a giant eye.
“It tells me that my grandparents are always gonna be watching over me and always have my back,” he said. “It looks behind me.”
His right arm also features a few meaningful pieces that reflect on Asplund’s childhood, as well as who he is as a person. While you might look at the tiger tattoo on his inner bicep and assume it’s just another tiger tattoo, Asplund’s holds deep meaning to him.
“I had a stuffed one [tiger] when I was kid,” he said. “It has just one eye, ‘cause we had a cat growing up and he went blind and lost one of his eyes. So that’s why the tiger just has one eye.”
How thoughtful is that?
Meanwhile, Asplund uses his left arm to reflect on his mental journey and path through life.
“I’ve always got to stay on point and make sure I feel healthy, in a mental way,” he said. “Every person has those dark thoughts and they’re fighting. You just have to be able to battle through those. I think everybody has them. If you say you don’t, I think you’re lying.”
“My left arm is more of the mental side of a human being,” he added. “I’ve been through a lot as a person, growing up. I’m not old yet, but still I think I’ve been through a lot. It’s just a reminder that... every day, you have to try to make the world a better place.”
All of Asplund’s tattoo work has been done in the summer, typical for professional athletes. This allows for maximum healing time and minimizes the risk of infection. So far, all of Asplund’s work has been done overseas in Sweden by a couple of artists he visits.
In addition to his other ink, Asplund also pays tribute to a few pieces of pop culture. His most recent tattoo on his forearm is a portrait of Gimli from Lord of the Rings, which he completed a few summers ago.
“My favorite movies, for sure,” he said. “It’s always been a part of my childhood and growing up, I always loved those movies. I still do, so it’s a part of me. I figured it was a good idea to put some down on my skin.”
He also has a full portrait of The Joker with the ‘Why so serious?’ wordmark on his upper arm, and already has plans for more, hopefully to be completed in summer.
To anyone who’s paid any attention to Asplund’s fashion sense, it should come as no surprise what the inspiration for his next piece is.
“I’m probably going to do a Peaky Blinders one next,” he said. “I’m planning on that.”