A lot has happened since the season started up again, however I’m so excited for the bomb that dropped last week. Canadian world champion and runner-up over the last two years and one of the last names to be removed from the final Canadian Olympic roster Bailey Bram is coming to Sweden to play for my team Linköping and that’s a groundbreaking signing. Bram will be the first world champion to play in Sweden’s top league and by far the most prominent player ever from North America to raise the bar on our league. Hopefully this will pave the way of the future with more exchanges of players across the Atlantic and a boost for Europe’s best league, I already know there is a player who will compete for Canada in the Olympics heading for Sweden, not to step on any toes I’ll get back to you about that after the Olympics are over. For now Bram will be arriving tomorrow (the 22nd) and laced up for the first time in front of our home crowd for this weekend’s double feature. I didn’t forget to say how excited I am, right?!
This past weekend was the last of the regular season on the road and I’m quite proud to say I will manage my primary goal for the season, seeing all 28 of Linköping’s games live and I can say it hasn’t been easy with some close calls in the economy department. It’s not cheap to travel 240 kilometres in a weekend to watch two games, just getting the transportation to fit in between games can be a real hassle when it’s a late Saturday game and then an early one on Sunday 6-7 hours by train between the two arenas. Sure there are still 3 games to go, but I can’t see what act of God would stand in my way!
The last couple of games way up north Sweden featured the two games overall this season with the highest attendance, first off a match-up between LHC (Linköping) and Modo, the top 2 teams in the league right now and it became a real nailbiter, with 5 minutes left Modo was in a commanding lead 3-1 but in this wonderful sport things can change really quick, 2 goals fell for LHC in under half a minute and the game was tied right at the end. Unfortunately for LHC the road trip began with a loss as Olympian Emma Nordin put Modo back in the lead with only a minute to go and the crowd of almost 500 cheered like we hadn’t heard before, even if the result was a loss it was nice to see the audience get involved because Modo has put up a terrific season claiming the regular season title once again and the girls are worth some attention for it.
Next up was a trip to Luleå where Piteå native Munksund had help from the Luleå men’s team to try and beat the present attendence record in Rikserien of 1673 persons. They put up a great show for everyone who came but the record could not be matched, a huge factor being the -30 degrees celsius outside, most people probably stayed at home coseing up in front of the fireplace instead of going out to watch the local women’s team bring home the bacon. It was really their day and a home team win 5-3 brought out a standing ovation for the 1168 people who made it.
Overall a nice last long road trip that ended with me sitting down at the airport with Team Sweden’s head coach Niclas Högberg before our flights back south. It was nice to get some thoughts about the upcoming Olympics, on the season so far both at home and what’s going on around the globe in the women’s hockey society. I got to give back some input of what I had seen of the Japanese team from last seasons qualification and World Championships, I can’t recall when Sweden faced them the last time but it was a looong time ago. It’s pretty nice being able to sit down and converse with such a known figure of women’s hockey, if I would have followed the male counterpart I would probably only be a dot in the crowd to someone like Per Mårs who will be coaching the Swedish men’s team in Sotchi.
I must say the great surroundings in the women’s hockey community is what makes the game so much better than any other game, wherever you go there are fantastic people to greet you, and never any bad blood between the fans, I have no problems with praising the opponent’s and I’m glad most opposing fans and other personnel around the league will do the same. We have a strong bond among those who support our players all over the world and even if it is growing slowly it is growing, there is still a very long way to go before professional leagues with reasonable salaries and playing conditions for those who play but one day that day will be.
That’s all for now folks, I hope you’ll have a great time experiencing the Olympics whether it’s on site in Sotchi or if you’re at home watching it on television. It sure will be a treat to see and maybe we’ll get to see some unexpected performances by Sweden, Finland, Russia etc. to shake up things for USA and Canada. I can’t imagine anyone who has forgotten what happened in Torino 2006!