Norway opens up online
by Henrik Manninen|12 SEP 2020
Former NHLer Ole-Kristian Tollefsen made the move from Norwegian national team player to working for the Norwegian Ice Hockey Association after finishing his career in 2017.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Following a 32-hour-long marathon bus journey through a howling Canadian snowstorm, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen lumbered off the bus an hour ahead of face-off. Jumping back on the bus another eight-hour trek awaited throughout western Canada which was swiftly followed by a six-hour drive. So it went on. Thrown into the deep end of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the comfort of your home was far away in every possible sense for the Norwegian teenager.

The hard toil eventually paid off. In his fourth season in North America, Tollefsen made it to be promised land debuting in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Eventually morphing into one of Norway’s finest defencemen, Tollefsen retired from the game in 2018. Now looking in the rear-view mirror, would he recommend his son to venture down that same road as he once did?

One of several questions Tollefsen ponders in the recent webinars broadcasted by the Norwegian Ice Hockey Association, known as NIHF in Norwegian. Now working as a Sports Consultant at the NIHF, Tollefsen has been the instigator behind connecting Norway’s hockey community with online seminars.

“We haven’t done anything like this before,” said Tollefsen of the ten webinars he hosted in spring and summer. “I came up with idea thinking it could be a good thing during the Corona outbreak, but also help to develop our players, coaches and parents,” said Tollefsen.

Roaming through his extensive network of contacts, Tollefsen has in his webinars dissected various aspects of Norwegian hockey development. With up to 100 registered participants for each episode, submitted queries have been dealt at the end of the episodes lasting around the hour mark.

Field experts in skating and skills, goaltending, sport psychology as well as strength and conditioning have all taken part to share their insights. Head coach Dan Tangnes and referee Marcus Wannerstedt offered their views on the way they see the game. National team players such as Patrick Thoresen, Andrea Dalen and Emilio Pettersen talked candidly about their career choices towards the top.
Patrick Thoresen during an interview at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
“I wanted to prove them wrong. That has been the driving force throughout my career. I looked at getting a punch in my face as something very positive. It fanned the flames,” said Thoresen on overcoming early knockbacks in his career.

Sporting an impressive beard when speaking to Tollefsen in a webinar named “My way to the top,” Thoresen recalled rejection from Farjestad Karlstad’s hockey gymnasium in Sweden. A few years later and with Tollefsen and Marius Holtet as his travel companions, Thoresen became the odd one out and was not selected at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Returning back to Norway he bounced back via Sweden to twice lift the Gagarin Cup in Russia and also skated in the Stanley Cup play-offs.

“What motivates you? The most motivated are the ones with the inner drive. We talk a lot about talent, but without that inner drive, you will not get anywhere,” said Tollefsen in his very own webinar named “My thoughts on the journey of becoming a top athlete”.

Tollefsen highlights the example of 20-year-old Emilio Pettersen. The Norwegian prospect recently penned a three-year rookie NHL deal and has never been shy of pushing boundaries. He left Norway as a 14-year-old and ventured down the route of playing college hockey in North America. When wishing to stand out ahead of the NHL draft, Pettersen contacted Norway’s downhill skiing team. Enrolling in their pre-season practice paid dividends as increased strength and speed out on the ice caught the attention of Calgary Flames.

Stepping out of the shadow of the comfort zone in time to push your boundaries is crucial. Here Tollefsen speaks about the flow zone, the mental state when performing an activity with focus, full involvement and enjoyment.
With Andrea Dalen one of the top female hockey players from Norway took part in the series of webinars.
photo: Jan Korsgaard
Andrea Dalen, one of Norway’s top female players, appears to have found the right balance throughout her career. The 28-year-old spent her formative years on boys’ teams with ice being readily available in Norway’s Ringerike. Heading back home from a summer camp in Sweden, she made the decision to enrol at a hockey gymnasium in Linkoping, Sweden. Then raising the bar considerably, her next step was four seasons of college hockey in North Dakota. Having been dropped from the team at the start she eventually became captain in her final year.

Since 2015, Dalen is skating for Djurgarden Stockholm. The one-time Swedish champion speaks in her webinar on whether coaches she worked with have treated women any different than men.

“In the various places where I have played, the focus has been on the individual rather than on your gender. But the men’s and the women’s game have different qualities and we work differently. But I grew up playing with boys. Since that is the mentality I have grown up with perhaps I don’t take note of all the differences as others do,” said Dalen.

As of 15 June, ice practice in Norway has resumed back towards normal. Tollefsen pressed pause following the last webinar hosted on 18 June with sports psychologist Arne Jorstad Riise.

“That episode was our final webinar ahead of the summer break. We will definitely continue doing these. There will be many potential names of future participants on our list, so it’s important for us not to use all of them straight away. Many sporting directors, coaches, players and others will be sitting on very valuable information,” said Tollefsen.

At the latest IIHF World Ranking, Norway’s men’s and women’s national teams are ranked in 11th and 13th place, respectively. With Norway aiming upwards, would there be any aspect of player development Tollefsen believes Norway could teach any of the higher-ranked countries he played the game professionally in?

“That’s a hard one to answer as I believe for instance Sweden is doing very well. In USA and Canada I believe players make early decisions and don’t play a variety of sports for too long. That I believe we are better at in the Nordic countries,” said Tollefsen.

All webinars can be watched in Norwegian language here.