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Sweden Taking it to the Next Level, Domestic and International

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The Swedish national team has undergone an management overhaul and this concludes a 4 year stint by Niclas Högberg as head coach, finishing with a well executed Olympic tournament. Last years assistant coach Leif Boork takes over the lead job bringing a ambitious attitude and tons of experience having coached both the Swedish and Norwegian national men’s teams as well as numerous of clubs at the highest level in Sweden. So don’t mind if I already get excited about next years World Championship at home soil in Malmö, as our “Lady Crowns” are working harder than ever, some for the chance to finish their careers in a moment of glory, others are the young players who will be there to inspire young girls for years and years to come. Of course it will be a blast seeing all these great players from Canada, USA, Finland and so on this close to home, and maybe, just maybe some will be tempted to stay and try out our leagues as they keep growing?

That brings me to the big boost women’s hockey in Sweden has gotten after this years Olympics, not only the fact that Bailey Bram and Jennifer Wakefield raised the bar as the first World Champions to play in Sweden. Big league clubs and powerhouses Färjestad and Djurgården finally got the courage to put their name on women’s hockey teams, sure not teams from scratch but this is a major landmark for raising interest in the sport. But perhaps the best news has been that Oilers prospect and national team professional Fredrik Pettersson has started up a proper women’s team in Gothenburg, soon followed by a equipment sponsorship by legend Börje Salming and suddenly the competition beneath our elite league gets sharper.

And Gothenburg will have a very interesting team, pooling the players of scattered teams in the area, they have brought in former Swedish U18 goalie Ellen Wilhelmsson as well as a North American trio consisting of Bemidji State graduates Tess Dusik and Jessica Havel and defenseman Christi Capozzi from the University of British Columbia. They are sure to be a strong contender for advancement along with last years qualifier HV71 and the new Djurgården team which has brought in Olympian Valentina Lizana Wallner and prominent center Tina Enström (sister of Tobias Enström of the Winnipeg Jets).

Another great announcement for this season was that the elite league in Sweden will expand from 8 to 10 teams for the 2015-16 season, this sets up quite a race for the qualification spots and it’s bound to be a tight race until the very end.

There has been a lot of player movement during this summers silly season and it has been a great pleasure seeing that we get the first Japanese player ever to join the league as Olympian Yuka Hirano joins last years champion AIK where she will join Elin Holmlöv as the new recruits along with some players from this years Swedish under-18 national team. Reigning champs Linköping are adding some power to an already strong foundation, Olympian Pernilla Winberg, former national team member Melinda Olsson and Norwegian captain Ingrid Morset, not to mention Jennifer Wakefield who will play for a men’s division 3 team as well when she gets all the papers in order.

On the other hand a lot of players will be travelling across the Atlantic for the NCAA experience, Mankato gets Elin Johansson from Modo and Norwegian Victoria Lovdal, the UMD Bulldogs are getting Olympians Maria Lindh, Michelle Löwenhielm and national team member Linnea Hedin and I think it’s awesome we’re getting some players over the ocean again since there has been so few over the last couple of years, both Finland and Switzerland has produced some nifty college players and we don’t want to fall behind them as Sweden always aspire to be one of the top ice hockey nations in the world.

I’m glad to say after 127 days of summer break the season finally kicked off with the first pre-season game this last Sunday where the teams I believe will head the league this season AIK and Linköping. It was a nice turnout with lots of players from all over the country there to watch, Linköping came out victorious 4-1 on the road with two goal performances from Swedish captain Jenni Asserholt and Jenn Wakefield. Got to see 93 games live last season, now I’m resetting the count to 1. Hope you all have had a wonderful summer and that you’ve kept up with your summer training, chances are you will be rewarded with a bunch of victories this season and perhaps you will find a way into some new fans eye. I for one love to go and see my own heroes do what they do best, and time after time be reminded why they became favorites of mine. So to all fans out there, remember to show you appreciate your heroes since most of them don’t get paid for playing, you can at least give them the feeling someone other than themselves loves what they do and will support them no matter of wins or losses!

Keep skating hard, wish you all the best until next time!

Mats

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