That’s exactly how it feels right now, the anticipation, the exitement of what is to come, what is wrapped in that calender of upcoming games?
And so I think back on seasons past, all the great memories, wins and losses that have put me through a emotional roller coaster. What I’m getting at here is how much the rewards you get out of being a dedicated fan heavily outweighs the effort you put in to show the players how much they really matter.
This is the story of my transformation from this random guy showing up at some games to a full fledged fan going near and far to see those who matter the most to me, players, teams and the game itself.
I’ve followed my team since 2008 and right from the first game I was hooked. The team imprinted on me and I decided there and then I would try to attend all the games at home (I made 9 out of 10 games the first season when the league consisted of 6 teams making a 20 game season).
The 2009 season began with a new favorite player joining the team which also happened to be the first player I befriended and the connection to the team grew further. I have realized getting to know players personally just makes my love for the team grow to a whole other level. I consider myself very lucky having made all these friends over the years and the spiral continues, the more you get to know them, the more you are willing to support them both on and off the ice just to help them succeed.
Late season 2011 gave me some great new milestones. I went away to see my first away game and it wasn’t even scary(!) also the team brought home a historical bronze medal which was a magical ending of a grand season. And still the commitment continues to grow, two years ago I went on half of the away games as well as watching all at home and this last season I actually got to see all of the away games and even travel with the team on the long bus rides to the north (about 750 miles).
It was kind of surreal for my the first time, travelling with the very heroes I have admired over the years. For me it’s probably the greatest reward you can get as a fan, when the coach comes up to you after an away game and asks you if you want to go with the team next time, that’s the first time I felt my role on the stands really mattered for someone other than myself.
I also got a couple of tokens of appreciation last season which might not hold the greatest value to the world, but to me they are priceless and I will cherish them forever. They were two game-worn and signed jerseys given to me by a couple of goalies I admire very much, just to show gratitude for my support and their beautiful gestures almost made me cry.
This is why it feels like Christmas time is closing in, because just being there for your team when they need it the most as well as when they doing fine on their own gets you more appreciation than you could ever imagine from the start. A little while back I got this compliment from a good friend of mine, ”If there is anyone who really can say ”we” about the team they’re cheering for, it’s you”, and to me it was one of the nicest thing anyone could really say.
Enough about me, that’s how I emerged to be a fighter for women’s hockey everywhere!
There is now less than a month before the season starts here in Sweden and a lot of interesting players has begun showing up on the rosters across the league. But first off I’m very saddened to say that one of our very finest players over the last decade has been forced to end her career following a long term back injury. Elin Holmlöv who has been the most prominent player of our national team the last 5 years and will leave a big gap in Swedish hockey, to put it in perspective it would be similar to a player like Zetterberg or Loui Eriksson hanging up their skates, really sad to see her go but there is a life after hockey to consider so it was a good decision.
Some interesting players from overseas will be joining our league, perhaps not the top of what North America has to offer but I’m sure most of them will have a positive impact here.
First out is Betty Jouanny who will be joining Brynäs, a french player who recently graduated from Montreal University, I have no idea on what level their university league is, but I reckon it’s a bit below the NCAA.
Canadian goalie Kristen Olychuk (Vermont ’10) and Anne Girtz (North Dakota ’06) comes straight from a league called Pepsi Premier Hockey League in British Columbia and will help out rebuilding powerhouse Segeltorp towards their former glory. Don’t know much about Girtz, but Olychuk on the other hand played in Sweden two seasons ago for Leksand and was a mid-level goalie in the league.
Last of the ones that has been reported so far is Ashley Furia (North Dakota ’13) who was involved in nearly upsetting Minnesota in the six period nail biter preceding the Frozen Four this spring, my guess is she will be the best of the trans-atlantic players and she will play a heavy role for newcomers Sundsvall in their struggle to remain in our top league.
I’ll be back in a month with exiting news about the opening weekend of the season and I will try to bring a qualified guess on which team to end up with the gold medal.
Until then, make sure you all make the best of this great time of year!