Together, forever, somehow

Small town boys do good in Sweden’s U16 championship

28.03.2011
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MODO Örnsköldsvik may be playing for their spot in the Elitserien, but in the under-16 age group, the first in which an official Swedish championship is played, the club was going for gold last weekend. As was Brynäs Gävle, another big Swedish club. Stockholm had its representative in the tournament, as well, but the fourth team, Guldsmedshytte SK, was one not many people had heard of before.

But there they were, attempting to put the finishing touch on their Cinderella story. The team that hails from a 3000-people strong village of Bergslagen had beat big Swedish clubs, such as Djurgården Stockholm, Linköping, and Leksand, on their way to the Final Four.

At the beginning of the season, the team was scrambling to get a full team on the ice, finally finding the needed players in towns that were almost 100 kilometres away. The parents created a car pool to get the kids to practices, and for away games, the club bought a bus.

“We bought it to save money and time. What a great investment that was,” says Henric Eklöw, team manager, and one-time coach, who’s seen the boys’ journey from the first day of hockey school years ago.

The Swedish federation decided to let GSK host the final tournament, guaranteeing that the teenagers would get to play in front of about 1,000 people.

“Our opponents aren’t used to playing in front of this many people. And for us, their support means a lot,” said Oscar Haaraoja Swärd, who led the team in goal scoring in with seven in eight games.

In their first game against MODO, in front of 1,050 people, including one Peter Forsberg, GSK rallied back to tie the game to 3-3 with five and a half minutes remaining. However, MODO scored once more two minutes later, and GSK had to settle to play for bronze.

Just 14 hours later, they lost to Brynäs 4-1, finishing fourth. Stockholm’s SDE beat MODO in the final 10-6.

Even before the tournament, regardless of their finish, the GSK players knew the team would split up after the season. Several of the players will move out of Bergslagen to go to hockey high schools in other towns, and to play for bigger clubs.

Oscar Haaraoja Swärd, too, has already made up his mind to move to Leksand, and to go the local hockey high school.

“We can only take the players so far,” Eklöw told Dagens Nyheter.

“But I’ve promised the guys that I will drive around and watch them play in their new clubs next season,” he adds.

You can take the boy out of GSK, but you can’t take the GSK out of the boy.

RISTO PAKARINEN

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