Stars on (campus) ice: Team Sweden returns to Concordia
This week, for the second year in a row, the Swedish men’s junior hockey team came to Concordia for a four-day training camp. Next stop? Lake Placid, New York, for Team Sweden’s annual exhibition tournament with Finland and the United States.
Head coach Rikard Grönborg said the decision to warm the squad up at Concordia’s Ed Meagher Arena was a no-brainer.
First of all, Montréal-Trudeau airport is only minutes away from the arena, and the drive down to Lake Placid is relatively short. But more importantly, the Loyola Campus is fully equipped to accommodate a national team.
“The facilities here are outstanding: everything we need is right on campus,” he said. “We don’t need to set up any bus schedules or anything like that. We just walk down to the rink whenever we want to.”
The team stayed in the Hingston Hall (HA) residence and ate meals in the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre (RF). “It’s really comfortable — with the food, and us sleeping so close to the ice,” said team veteran Andreas Englund, who was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the 2014 draft.
And the service on campus? Absolutely spot on, said Coach Grönborg. “The courtesy of the people here has been awesome. We’re very thankful for everything.”
‘It’s a great city’
By Thursday, three days into on-ice practices at the newly refurbished Ed Meagher Arena and dry-land training sessions on the Loyola playing fields, Grönborg felt the team had worked hard enough. He gave them the afternoon and evening off.
Adrian Kempe, a first-round draft pick with the Los Angeles Kings, headed straight to the Montreal Casino with a few of his teammates.
“We spent some money,” he said the morning after, laughing. “We didn’t win anything, but it was a lot of fun.”
Other players, including Englund, opted to head downtown for a bite to eat near the Bell Centre.
“It’s a great city. And we’ve had lovely weather,” said the towering 6’3” defenceman from Stockholm. “We’ve been having a terrible summer in Sweden.”
What’s in store for Team Sweden?
Englund and Kempe are among 13 returning veterans from the Swedish line-up that made it to the semi-finals of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in January.
“We have a pretty good foundation of players who know what to expect,” Gronbörg said. “We can start out maybe a little further ahead than we were last year.”
The 2016 tournament begins on December 26, 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.
Englund, who’s playing this season with Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Hockey League, will almost certainly be there to represent his country. But Kempe’s situation is less certain. He may get the call to play in the National Hockey League — in which case, Gronbörg says, the Kings may decide not to let him play in the tournament.
“If they play too many minutes for a big team, it’s tough for us to get them.”
Last year, Kempe played a key role for Los Angeles’s farm team, the Manchester Monarchs, in the playoffs of the American Hockey League. He scored eight goals in 17 games, helping the New Hampshire team win its first-ever Calder Cup Championship.
That kind of skill and championship experience is hard to replace, Gronbörg said. “We depend on those players if we're going to have some success, because we don't have the depth of Russia, or the US, or Canada. For every good hockey player we have, Canada has 10. It hurts us a bit more than the big hockey nations.”
Whether or not Kempe makes it to Helsinki for the tournament later this year, he’s optimistic about Team Sweden’s chances. “We’re a really good age this year, and I think we have a really good team that can go the whole way.”
Look out, Team Canada!
Find out more about Team Sweden's connection to Concordia.