When Kim Martin played in her first Olympics, at Salt Lake City, she was 15 years old and the darling of women’s hockey.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Association had been so dismayed by the team’s performance in the leadup to the 2002 Games it almost didn’t send a team. But Martin was sensational, leading Damkronorna to a surprise bronze medal.
Four years later, the team scored the biggest win in women’s hockey history when it upset the Americans in the semi-finals in Turin, winning a silver medal and igniting excitement in the women’s game never before seen. Dubbed the “Mirakel” (Swedish for miracle, as in the 1980 Miracle on Ice), the win promised a future in which Canada or the United States would be challenged at every tournament.
But the Swedes won bronze at the 2007 Women’s Worlds—and haven’t won a medal since. In Sochi 2014, there are only three skaters from the 2006 Mirakel team: Emma Eliasson, Jenni Asserholt, and Pernilla Winberg. The glory of 2006 had faded, and Martin, at age 27, is the oldest player on the Swedish team.
“I’m getting old,” she started, with a laugh. “I think we’ve had a shift in our team. A lot of the older players quit and new ones have come in. It takes a while to build a team and get experience and just feel confident in the team and trust ourselves.”
Martin Hasson set a record Tuesday afternoon when she played against Germany, becoming the first women’s goalie to appear in four Olympics. But from her stunning entrance in 2002 to the silver in 2006, the team is now struggling to maintain its place among the elite European teams. Switzerland and Russia have made great strides, the Finns are as strong as ever, and the Swedes have not yet found replacements for their great troika of Maria Rooth, Erika Holst, and Gunilla Andersson.
“We have a lot of younger players now, and I think half the team is playing in their first Olympics,” Martin Hasson explained. “We definitely have some players who can get a lot better and become key players for us in the future. Anna Borgqvist is really good. Erika Grahm, Lina Wester. I think we have a lot of our defence are going to be really good, and the older players who have some more experience have done really well so far, especially Jenni Asserholt, Pernilla [Winberg], Emma [Eliasson], and Emilia [Andersson]. I think we have a lot of talented players who can become something even better if they keep playing and have fun.”
The old guard may be gone, but they’re not forgotten or willing to be forgotten. As Martin Hasson noted, “Erika Holst is working for the federation at the women’s side, and a lot of the other older players come and watch us play. They’re following us.”
Because of her seniority, Martin Hasson is not just a stopper of pucks; she’s also a leader. “I don’t need a letter to be a leader,” she explained. “I think I’m one of the experienced players now, so the other players ask me a lot of questions. I kind of like that - it’s fun. I try to make sure everyone feels good and is having fun on the team.”
Fun leads to victories, and vice versa, so Martin Hasson is enjoying Sochi very much... so far. The team is 2-0 and looking strong heading to the playoffs. “I’m happy that the team is working really well now,” she continued. “We have done really well this year, so hopefully we can do something special at this Olympics. All teams here have a chance. Anything can happen at the Olympics. You just have to go 100 per cent every game. If we do that we can at least be proud of ourselves.”
As for the future, the goalie is still young enough to increase her record to five or even six Olympics, but she doesn’t seem eager to think about it just yet. “We’ll see,” she said when asked if PyeongChang was in her future. “Probably not, but we’ll see.”