ZURICH – Erika Holst has been captain of the Swedish national women’s team since 2002. She has been with the team since 1997 and has played 63 games with the team at the Olympics and Worlds. She has won an Olympic silver and bronze medal and two WW bronze medals and has long been one of the top players in women’s hockey.
But soon after this World Women’s Championship in Switzerland ends, she will be assuming a new position that is vital to the development of the game in her homeland.
“I’ll be in charge of developing women’s hockey in Sweden,” she explained, “so I’ll be helping with hockey schools and keeping in contact with the different districts and clubs that have women’s hockey and try to get more girls come to the rink. I will try to make more women aware of hockey and get more people to play and watch.”
Not a task for the faint of heart, this is a key area for Sweden as it tries to keep up with Finland in that annual bronze-medal fight and also tries to push Canada and the United States at the top.
“From the Olympic Committee down to the national federations, they all put pressure on countries to improve and make women’s hockey a priority,” she said of the post Vancouver mood in her sport. “Then, last fall, our federation had a conference about women’s hockey and there was a lot of pressure to hire someone to be in charge of national development.”
Of course, it’s only too obvious how important such a position is, but women’s hockey has had a tough time establishing itself outside of North America. That the Swedish federation is finally committed to spending the money necessary to hire Holst and let her take on this position is an important sign of optimism. Because of her role on the national team, Holst was a prime candidate for the job from the first time it was mooted.
“I’ve been around a while, and I know a lot of people at the federation, and I think that they had my name in mind, and I also hinted to them a little bit that I’d be interested. It’s a great job, and it’s something I’m really, really happy to be doing. It’ll be really fun to go to work every day.”
Because her role has nothing to do with the national team – naming players, inviting players to camp, etc. – it will be up to Holst and coach Niclas Hogberg, if she is to continue her playing career.
“I guess that’s Niclas’s decision,” she said with a smile. “It’s not really mine. But I’d like to still play. This season has been more fun than in a long time to play hockey, especially on the national team. As long as I can contribute to the team and Niclas thinks I’m doing a good job, then I don’t see a point in quitting.”
Holst will live in Stockholm and travel the country trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, as it were.
“I have a week at home after the tournament to figure out how to do that,” she joked. “One of the first things to do is to connect all the people because I think there are a lot of people in Sweden who are working really hard for women’s hockey, but they’ve been kind of working on their own. I want to connect them all and get them to work towards the same goals and get something bigger out of it all.”
Of course, having been around the game for so long, Holst has plenty of contacts around the country, including many teammates past and present.
“I think everyone wants to work and help and we need to have someone to give them ideas about what they can do and how they can help. And, yes, I’ll definitely use some of my former teammates.”
It’s a difficult and long-term job looking to Sochi and beyond, but if anyone in Sweden can make it a success, it’s Damkronor’s big number 8.