As the 4-nations tournament in Sundsvall, Sweden is about to set off in just about a week and I can’t help feeling excited about the great hockey and people that comes along with it. Being a Swede myself I should probably be all-in behind our very own national team, however I’ve never really been Swedish by heart. Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous admiration for our hometown heroes but ever since the ’02 Salt Lake City Olympics I’ve been spellbound by the Canadians. That was by the way the first time I ever watched women’s hockey so I didn’t really know the players, still remember growing very fond of Kim St-Pierre who backstopped Canada for the gold and naturally Kim Martin-Hasson in her breakout international tournament about to turn 16 at the time.
That was when the love for Canada began and it keeps growing for each year, gaining new favourite players and of course all of these amazing high paced games. So you could see my fondness of how the European scene is expanding with more college graduates from North America by every year and especially at these special moments when the two great nations of the women’s hockey world comes over to show us how it’s done.
So apart from getting to see these “big shots” coming alive in Olympic games and World Championships like Meghan Agosta (-06), Rebecca Johnston (-10) and Tara Watchorn (-14), it’s even more special with these every day encounters the players coming overseas brings. Just getting the chance to interact with “our” Canadians makes you realize just how grand their nationality really is, very down to earth and polite while at the same time determined to achieve greatness. I would say Canada is basically the perfect mix of Sweden and the USA.
There were a few Canadians here and there playing in Sweden in the “before”-time, but I will always have a big up especially for Bailey Bram who essentially was the first truly great one along with Jenn Wakefield who just made the market for Canada explode. Sure I remember Kendra Dunlop and Melissa Waldie along with a few other names from before, but the ones that have joined after are almost beyond count. It was such a great year last season with Glenda Edie bringing stability to the SDE defense even if they were quite a bit behind most of the teams in the league, she did do her part in keeping them at top level after the qualifications. The ones I hugely miss are former Regina Cougars Katie Kennedy and Kendra Finch who spend the year moving HV71 up from the 1st division to our top tier and they played a huge part of the teams success, amazing people outside of the ice as well. I also had the honour of meeting former McGill student Jordanna Peroff as she brought her Italian team the Bolzano Eagles up to Sweden for the European Women’s Champions Cup and it’s nice to see she’s continuing her career with the Montreal Canadiennes (CWHL). Last but not least were Tess Dusik, another one of those amazing Manitobans. She started the season off with Gothenburg but when it was clear they had no chance of making the Elite league qualifications she headed back home. Real glad we got to experience her skills even if I would have liked to see her play at top level where she belongs.
Now for this year and even more Canadians in the league as well as in Europe. SDE got a good replacement for Edie in Maggie Litchfield-Medd who brings greatly needed leadership and skill to the team. Sundsvall started the season with Tegan Schroeder and Danielle Stone right from the CWHL and just recently brought back Melissa Waldie so their stacking up and are becoming a competitive team in the league as they just the other day took down last years finalist AIK. Another late addition are Plattsburgh’s Shannon Stewart who has gotten off to a good start with reigning champs Linköping. Still the jackpot of the year goes to HV71 who once again has brought in two amazing treasures in Jenna Smith and Chelsea Peterson from the University of Calgary, both playing a physical game and keeping their names visible in the scoring sheets and just like Katie and Kendra they are such lovely people off ice! So with all these players already rocking the league and Canada about to come over to battle with USA for another tournament title the season is already like Christmas and I’m quite certain there will be more key players arriving to all of the teams serious about getting a gold medal at the end of the year. The league is getting more competitive for every day that goes by and I’m quite certain the best teams we have would be able to give both the NWHL and CWHL teams a good match, our mix of nations really packs a punch where it counts. Ever since Regina and Alberta where here touring Sweden during the pre-season I’ve been drawing on dreams of getting a super start of next season with a challenge series with lets say the Buffalo Beauts over in Sweden playing the top 4 teams. I can’t see why not, it would be one amazing set of games and easy enough getting the Swedish teams together in one or two locations, also giving the NWHL players a nice international experience. Both Alberta and Regina where so pleased with their visits so I encourage more teams to do that!
A huge thanks to Canada and Canadians everywhere for being the greatest hockey nation in the world and sharing that with the rest of the world. They will never be as close to my heart as Norway or Denmark, but still pretty darn close!
As always a pleasure getting to share my thoughts with all of you amazing people of our constantly growing women’s hockey family and I’ll be back with a summary on the 4-nations tournament in Sweden as soon as it’s over.