As women’s hockey takes a vacation while other leagues keep going just makes you long for it a bit more. Sure it’s a time to recuperate and get excited for the ”important” part of the season, but it’s almost more exhausting to not watch games after living in it almost every weekend since late August.
So what is there to do? I love the tradition of sending Christmas cards and working for the postal services I get to see what a big part of Christmas it still is. There is a whole procedure about preparing cards when you want to get something for every one of those favorite players, sure I could have sent out probably a hundred more but that would be a full time job just finding addresses for all of them. The final count this year, 45 where 23 are hockey players from my dream team, not merely in Sweden but also Norway, Canada, Australia, Croatia, Alaska and so on. I can tell you it’s not easy finding where to send them all but I managed somehow, and that without having to ask any of them, it’s really more of a treat when they don’t expect it.
Even if you keep cheering for and encouraging ”your” players over the season it’s still nice to give them some extra praises in the time between games. At least in my world they are the very finest stars and anything is worth showing how much their hard work and dedication matters, not only to the team but the people around them.
After getting all those juletide greetings in the mail I got to see a little preview of what’s to come in February when the puck drops in Sotchi. Managed to get away to Örebro for the last day of a 4-nation tournament showing off Sweden, Finland, Russia and Germany and that was a real treat. Russia started the day of whooping Germany 4-1, pretty much a one sided game and I can’t see Germany being much of a threat come Olympic times but it was nice to see Kerstin Spielberger back on Swedish ice, a year older and a year better. I only wish she would get the opportunity to play either overseas or in our Swedish league one day, it’s a shame when you only get to see some favorites at best one or two times a year.
To finish the tournament, rivals Sweden and Finland faced off for the tournament title and what a great game it was. Noora Räty once again facing Valentina Lizana Wallner after the last game against the two nations in Lake Placid where Finland won 2-0. This time Sweden turned out to be the dominating force, apart from Räty that is and that Finland was playing without stars Tapani and Karvinen. And what an exciting game the 254 spectators got to see, Finland taking an early lead 0-1 and increasing to 0-2 only seconds into the second period. However Sweden quickly replies to 1-2 and having pulled Lizana out for the extra attacker with 2 minutes to go, the crowd was shouting out loud as Erika Grahm put up the tying goal right before the end. Going into overtime with momentum nothing could stop Sweden it seemed, or Räty could as it would play out. Only 20 seconds in the Swedes had a puck dancing at the goal line but it was covered in the very last second and Finland took the next draw just rushing up the ice where Emma Nuutinen put it up top shelf for the win. Finland stood victorious ending up equal to Sweden on points but getting the gold medal on the head to head win. Still this was a great show of force by Sweden closing in on the Olympics and showing the Swedish Olympic Committee they made the right choice clearing our women for Sotchi earlier this month (finally).
Also got time to go see a capital derby between previous powerhouse Segeltorp and the reigning champions AIK, another one sided affair where AIK was facing the fantastic goalie Ida Winkler playing one of her best games of the year. Despite winning the shots 55-22, AIK could not finish the deal until the last minute when 4-2 was put on the board in an empty net, Segeltorp having scored just over a minute before.
It’s always nice going to Segeltorp because you know there will be a lot of Swedish legends sitting in the stands. To mention a few Erika Holst and Gunilla Andersson both Olympic silver medalists from 2006 was there as well as long time Norwegian stars Line Bialik Øien and Helene Martinsen. And not only that, I also got the chance to exchange a few words with Segeltorps newest addition, goalkeeper Shelley Payne, previously know from various teams in both USA and Canada. It’s always nice to interact with players, especially when they’re coming here to play from distant parts of the world.
That’s the last I will contribute to the year of 2013, I wish you all a very happy new year and hope we will have a brilliant 2014! I’m quite sure I will at least, having planned for at least 40 games until mid-April. Last spring I thought the 75 games I watched last season would be hard to beat but having seen 36 games already (against last years 30), the record doesn’t seem so unreachable anymore.