When I chose Sweden as a country I wanted to study in I knew I wanted to be able to play hockey. I have been playing hockey since I was about 8 years old. Growing up in Rural Alaska it brought me so many opportunities to travel and meet kids who enjoyed the sport as much as I did. Although I wanted to play hockey in Sweden I kept an open mind, as it isn’t exactly a sport you can play anywhere. But once I got to Gothenburg and got settled a little I started to think about playing hockey.
This means that you have to look for community leagues to play sports and can involve a little searching in a big city like Gothenburg. It also means that you probably play sports with all different kids than you go to school with which is much different than at home. Because I couldn’t use my school to find sports I turned to Google! “Recreational Hockey in Gothenburg,” I was able to find a website for the Gothenburg Hockey Club. On the website I found a practice time for the Rec team so one Tuesday night I found my way to the hockey rink which turned about to be only 15 minutes from my house, a huge improvement from the 50 I drive for hockey at home. Before I watched I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if it was kids or adults, old or young. It turned out to be mostly men and a couple of girls all gathering for a fun game.
The next week I went back, now knowing more what I wanted, kind of. :))) Being here I have gotten good at not being scared to ask questions and to not beat around the bush as I know when I approach people speaking English they will be slightly caught off guard so I keep it simple. I walked up to the counter at the arena and told the lady “ I am a foreign exchange student and I want to play hockey” She said she didn’t know what I had to do to play but she took me to a guy who I again told “ I am a foreign exchange student and I want to play hockey.” With that he asked me if I had gear, I didn’t, so he found another girl who from the extra gear closet found me a whole set of gear. Once they got me the gear they invited me to play in the game that night.
It was a pretty crazy experience sitting on the bench in a hockey rink with a bunch of Swedish hockey players. They were all so welcoming, but really I’m not surprised as so far in my journey as a hockey player all people who come together to play a game are. After playing in that men’s game the girl who helped me get the gear invited me to play with a women’s team the next day. That is the team I now am playing with on a regular basis. The team practices a couple times a week and has games on weekends. Playing with the women I have made many friends. At school, I found it a little hard to find people that had the same interests as me. Because school and sports are so separated and coming in not knowing anyone or speaking the language it is quite hard to find out what kids are interested in which makes it hard to find kids you even want to be friends with. Playing a sport creates a group of people that at least have one thing in common. but all girls who play hockey get along very well. After a long day at school or frustrations at home, it is always nice to be able to go to hockey get lost in the game and enjoy the crazy locker room shenanigans.
The coach does give the directions for drills in Swedish, luckily many of the words are similar and my coach draws it on a whiteboard. I always try and understand the best I can but if I don’t understand I ask for the directions again in English or one of the girls is always willing to explain. On the team, there are two other girls who don’t speak Swedish but have been in Sweden a little longer as both go to university here so they understand more of the drills and can help me. Although some words are similar I have learned a few important hockey phrases in Swedish. For example, I learned left, vänster, and right Höger, so I know which side wing I will be when someone comes off the ice yelling it during a line change.
No matter where the rink is or what language the coach is speaking its still the same. I even found the coach repeats the same things like “keep your head up” something apparently every coach says a lot. Skating still gives me the same feeling and being apart of a team is still the greatest. I couldn’t be more excited to get to play the sport I love while living in Sweden!
Fiona MacDonald, from Cantwell, Alaska, is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipient. Learn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!