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Girtz Continues Her Career in Sweden

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The last time I blogged for WomensHockeyLife I was playing for Segeltorp, a team in the Swedish Riksserien, or National League, located just south of Stockholm, Sweden.

Little did I know when leaving Sweden two Aprils ago, that my saga in Sweden would still be ongoing over two years later…

During my time playing for Segeltorp, I learned a lot about the education system in Sweden, and most importantly that most of the Master’s level education in Sweden is taken in English. This peaked my interest about the possibility of going back to school – in Sweden – to get my Master’s degree.

The January before I left, I had submitted an application to one of the Master’s programs at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. In June, after I’d settled back in my adopted hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, I received my admission acceptance letter for the upcoming autumn semester.

My decision was made, and in three months, I was on my way back to Sweden, this time primarily for school, not hockey.

I didn’t want to give up playing hockey, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to devote 5-6 nights to hockey. Through my friend from Segeltorp, Lisa, I got in contact with a team in the next lower league, Division 1 Stockholm East. After texting with Mia, the captain of the Haninge Anchors once or twice, I took the metro and a bus for 40 minutes (with hockey bag) and showed up for one of their first practices. Minus the long-ish commute, Haninge turned out to be the perfect team for me while I studied. For the next 2 years, I played with Haninge, culminating in a first place finish and spot in the Kvalserien this past season (playoff to determine which teams move up a division). Even though hockey had taken a back seat to school, it was still a major part of my life, and we were thrilled to have improved over the last 2 seasons, and to be playing in the Kvalserien.

For the first game of the Kvalserien, we were playing one of the relegated Riksserien teams, SDE. About 10 minutes into the first period, another girl and I were going hard for an icing; I lost my edge around the bottom of the circles and hit my shoulder full-force into the end boards.

Stunnned, I got up, didn’t feel much pain, but knew something was very off with my shoulder. I slowly skated to the bench while the refs and my teammates motioned for me to get to the other end of the ice for the face-off after the icing call. I shook my head no, and climbed, dazed, into our bench.

I put my gloves and stick down and reached into my shoulder pads to feel on top of my shoulder where the pain was starting to worsen. Over my underarmour, I could feel a searing hot bump at the edge of my collar bone where it meets the shoulder. Immediately, I knew something was not right.

Fast forwarding through the next 7 months – which included diagnosis of a grade 5 AC joint separation, two surgeries to repair the torn ligaments in my shoulder, and 6 months of rehab, I am now back at full ability, and very impatiently ready for the first game of the season — which happens tomorrow.

After playing with Haninge for 2 years, a few of the girls there decided to start a new team closer to the city, and where many of us live. Through a lot of perseverance and a little luck, we managed to get a new team going, which is actually part of one of the most well-known and oldest sports clubs in Stockholm – Hammarby.

I have been on the ice for a little over a month, and just started to engage in full contact, so I’m still not sure if I will be ready for the game on Wednesday (I will decide after our practice tonight). It’s been a long road to recovery over the last 7 months and on one hand I want to ease back into it and play when I feel 100% ready, but the other impatient side of me wants to play in this first game.

Either way, I am ready for a new season, to finally get back on the ice, and also super excited to be representing Hammarby’s first ever women’s ice hockey team this year!

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