Having made her mark during an unforgettable first season of professional women’s ice hockey, providing offensive consistency in an All-Star season with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts, Shelby Bram embarked on a new journey for her second sojourn in the professional ranks. Possessing world-class talent, highlighted by multiple stints donning the Maple Leaf at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds and the MLP Nations Cup, Bram took to the ice in Sweden, experiencing the professional game’s competitiveness in Europe.
Making history as the first Canadian-born player in the history of Brynas IF, Bram played for head coach Madeleine Ostling, a former player for Brynas and MODO, whose coaching resume also includes stints with Sweden’s U16 entry at the Youth Olympic Games and at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, respectively. Based out of Gavle, Sweden, the 2017-18 season shall mark the 20th in Brynas IF history, while Bram was part of the club’s ninth full season in SDHL play.
Accumulating over 100 points at the NCAA level, along with an appearance in the inaugural Isobel Cup finals, the swift-skating Bram would continue her high-scoring ways during her first season with Brynas IF. In 33 games played, she recorded a solid 30 points on the strength of 18 assists, testament to her fundamentally sound playmaking abilities.
As a side note, another international player that provided scoring punch for the club included France’s Betty Jouanny. A member of the French national team, Jouanny also spent one season with the RSEQ’s Carabins de Montréal, providing another unique Canadian connection for Bryans IF.
Statistically, Bram’s 30 points placed her second on the team in scoring, trailing Swedish national team member Anna Borgqvist, whose 36 points paced all skaters. Her first point with Brynas IF took place in a September 25, 2016 contests against Lulea HF. Along with Borgqvist, both would gain the assists on a second period goal scored by Angelica Ostlund.
Less than a month later, Bram would log her first multi-point performance, signifying one of the finest performances of the SDHL season. Taking on Sundsvall on October 21 at Gavlerinken Arena, Bram would record her first goal for Brynas IF at the 8:26 mark of the first period. With less than three minutes remaining in the first, Bram would score again, as the club boasted a 3-0 advantage.
Although Sundsvall’s Lindsey West (raised in Ajax, Ontario) would spoil Sara Grahn’s bid for a shutout during the second stanza, Bram would make her mark once again, scoring the game’s first power play goal, while attaining the prized pinnacle of a hat trick. Along with goals from Jessica Adolfson and Sara Jakobsson, a dominant Brynas IF squad held a 6-1 advantage after two periods.
With a third period that saw Jouanny place her name on the scoresheet, while Josefine Holmgren recorded two points, including the game’s final goal, Brynas IF emerged victorious in an 8-2 final that served as Bram’s coming out party with the club. As a side note, fellow Canadian Lindsey West (an alum of the Quinnipiac Bobcats) would score Sundsvall’s second goal of the game in the third period. Including Bram, seven players logged multi-point efforts for Brynas IF in this triumphant outcome.
By season’s end, Bram would also rank among the top 20 scorers in the SDHL scoring race while ranking second among all Canadians competing, extending the growing legacy of elite Canadian talent bringing their renowned skills to the European game. Considering such a significant hockey background, Bram’s presence with Brynas IF enabled for a new dimension on offense, while giving her the opportunity to grow into a leadership role and play a prominent role on special teams,
“I think I became more of a leader as the year progressed. It was not easy to take a leading role early on being the only North American.
However, as time progressed we all became a much closer group and the language barrier wasn’t an issue. I was definitely counted on to help produce being on the first line and playing PP/PK as well.”
Among the Canadian-born players who ranked in the top 50 in scoring among SDHL skaters, there was a unique instance of six degrees of hockey separation. Linkoping HC superstar Jennifer Wakefield, who finished second in the league with 53 points, trailing only Michele Karvinen, led all skaters in SDHL play with 34 goals. A teammate of Bram’s older sister, Bailey, on the Canadian national women’s team, both have been invited to Canadian Centralization in preparation for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Worth noting is the fact that Shelby is not the first member of the Bram family to ply their trade in Europe. In 2014, Bailey donned the Linkoping HC jersey (although Wakefield was not a teammate at the time), experiencing the game in an entirely new aspect, while averaging more than two points per game. One year earlier, Bailey and Shelby were teammates on Canada’s entry at the 2013 MLP Nations Cup, contested in Fussen, Germany. With Shelby preparing for this newest chapter in her hockey career, she definitely consulted with her older sister, gaining an element of both inspiration and preparation,
“Bailey for sure gave me pointers on every aspect of life in Sweden. The culture is a little different but once I got to know the girls it was just like North America.”
Heading into the 2016-17 SDHL season, Bram was not the only NWHL alum gracing the ice there. Former Buffalo Beauts teammate Lindsay Grigg also made the journey across the Atlantic. Signing with club HV71, Grigg was named an alternate captain, finishing the season with 18 points, reaching double digits in assists, while placing 40th in league scoring. She would be joined on the HV71 roster by fellow Canadian, Hanna Moher, who also managed double digits in total points.
Four spots behind Grigg in the scoring race was another Canadian, Kendra Broad with Sundsvall/Timra. Having enjoyed the unique distinction of competed at university hockey on both sides of the Canada-US border, she was a familiar face for the former Beauts teammates. Having played with the Lindenwood Lady Lions in the College Hockey America conference, her path definitely crossed with Bram and Grigg prior to skating in Sweden. Of note, Bram’s Lakers and the Rochester Institute of Technology, who featured Grigg as their team captain, were conference rivals.
Of note, the latter half of Broad’s university career would also include a unique connection. Stacey Scott, who also placed among the SDHL’s top 40 scorers during 2016-17 has called Broad a teammate twice. Of note, the two donned the jersey at the University of Western Ontario before reuniting with Sunsdvall.
Akin to her fellow Canadians, the chance to experience another part of the world while remaining faithful to the game that means so much represented the best of both worlds for Bram in 2016-17. As rosters for club teams throughout European leagues feature players with various backgrounds, such leagues take on the luster of a global village. Getting the opportunity to call players from a diverse group of nations as teammates for the first time definitely introduced Bram to a whole other facet of the game, gaining an appreciation for different styles of play, while absorbing the cultural elements of her newly adopted home.
Reflecting on her second season in professional ice hockey, there were many enjoyable moments savored. Considering that so much of Bram’s Hockey Canada experiences involved competing in Europe, the chance to return as a more polished player signified a unique evolution in her career. With a superstar status that enables her the chance to take on the role of ambassador for the game, representing some of the best talent that Canada has to offer, Bram’s journey this season was also one defined by new friendships and expanding her cultural horizons.
“From playing over in Sweden and being able to see their country was my favorite part outside of the rink. On my free time I was able to travel and visit other countries as well which was amazing.
In terms of hockey – meeting the girls and forming great relationships with them that will hopefully last years and years. Overall it was such an amazing experience and would not have done it any differently.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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