“Farðu til Andskotans”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll find out.”
The first time we ever got a look at Icelandic hockey was in the 1994 film, D2: The Mighty Ducks. In the film, the Nordic country was portrayed as a leading power in the hockey world that only fell to the Americans in a shootout for the gold medal.
In fact, the first time Iceland played an international hockey match was five years after the film was released at the 1999 IIHF World Championship D-Pool in South Africa where they lost 11-0 to Israel. It was in those years then when indoor ice rinks were built in the country and a league was founded.
Since then, Iceland has slowly been rising through the ranks and has gotten to 33rd in the newest IIHF World Ranking, thanks to a Bronze Medal at this year’s 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A in Zagreb, Croatia.
The starting goaltender for the Icelandic national team since the 2008 IIHF World Championship Division II has been Dennis Hedström, a Swedish-born netminder from the Växjö Lakers junior hockey system who was playing on the island and has an Icelandic mother.
Hedström has spent time playing hockey in Sweden, Iceland, Austria, and France throughout his career; and has played for Iceland at six World Championship events, most recently winning a Division II bronze medal.
IIHF.com asked Hedström some questions.
How did you start playing hockey, and at what age?
I started to play ice hockey on a team around the age of six, but I learned to skate at a younger age on frozen lakes and other areas near our house. I was always active and enjoyed sports all year round; football in the summer, and ice hockey was perfect in the winter.
How did you become a goalie?
I have always been fascinated by the equipment, and the game-changing saves combined with the responsibility. I decided to become a goaltender at a young age, maybe mostly because my team had a bad goalie and I hated to lose every game, so after I changed to goalie. The coaches refused to change me back to forward since we started to win some games.
Describe your playing style?
I try to use my size (188 cm) the best I can with a wide butterfly style. I am also very flexible with fast gloves and have a good mind when it comes to reading the game and wanting to win games no matter what it costs.
Are you satisfied with your career so far?
Yes I am. I feel very blessed to be part of the Icelandic national team and to have got the chance to play abroad in Sweden. I always try to play at the highest level possible if it works socially. Of course I sometimes think what could have happened if I got the chance after a pre-season camp with an Elitserien team before the 2004 NHL lockout or after getting a scholarship from the university to study at the MBA level and join their NCAA Division 1 team. I was supposed to but somehow it didn’t work out, I had to turn down the scholarship before I arrived in the U.S. My career just went down a different path and I had other fun experiences, and also earned a Bachelor degree in economics and business development in Sweden. During the time, I also started my own small business.
Do you see Icelandic hockey on the rise or fall right now?
Icelandic hockey is rising and improves every year. I’m proud to be part of it since Iceland has never played before on this level and recently reached its highest ranking. Ice hockey is getting more and more popular mainly because of our National Team’s success the last couple of years that has drawn the attention of local media. This has provided the people and kids of discovering the young sport of ice hockey in Iceland that stands in the shadow of bigger sports such as football and handball.
What are some of the best moments for you in hockey?
Winning games and medals with the national team; otherwise it is the invitation and pre-season camp with Färjestad in the Elitserien (2004 as a 17-year-old,) and all promotions with Swedish club teams.
Looking forward what are some of the goals for your national team?
The ambition of the national team is to take it step by step every year and become a strong contender and fight for the silver and gold in Division IIA. This and developing the domestic league and help getting more Icelandic players to play abroad to increase the level of experience is key.
What are your plans for next season?
As it seems right now I will continue playing for Aseda with my brother since it worked well socially and is near my hometown. But I’m open to other suggestions abroad and in Sweden since I always want to play at a higher level and can deliver great goaltending.
NHL team: New York Rangers
Childhood idols: Dominik Hasek, Henrik Lundqvist
Video game: FIFA, NHL
TV show: Family Guy
Pump-up song: Grayhound – Swedish House Mafia
Activity away from the rink: work, gym, football, tennis