Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Luleå, Sweden: A Hockey Paradise?

The short answer: You better believe it! When I was packing my belongings to travel over here I was told by a Swede I met in the US to definitely take my skates. Unfortunately, back in Pittsburgh when I was checking in my bags, I was over the weight limit by a few pounds. So, being one of the heavier items, the skates had to stay in Pennsylvania. Luckily, last week I found a cheap pair of skates and a stick. Game on! This evening marked my fourth practice with the Luleå Foreign Hockey Legion. It's an awesome way to socialize and hone your hockey skills all at once. The best part is that it's really informal. Have fun, play some games, run a few drills, fall down a couple times, and do it all over again. These experiences compare to the fun times I had with friends from Clarkson heading down the road to Parishville to play some pond hockey with the locals. Oh how I miss those times...

At tonight's practice I wanted a photo I could send to everyone back home to show that Clarkson is still being represented, even if Luleå is thousands of miles from the North Country.

Bence (right) & Martin (left)
But pick-up hockey isn't the only hockey in Luleå. Far from it. Just last Saturday I went to a Luleå Bears game. It was incredible! Being college students, my friends and I (Phillip [Germany], Bence [Hungary], and Martin [Germany]) opted for the cheaper standing section tickets. We all agreed after the game that we didn't make a mistake. The standing section was their version of Clarkson's student section. I was a little confused at first when the section really got behind the team. For the first few moments I felt like I was at a soccer game instead. You all know how the crowd chants and sings at a soccer game, right? It's a completely different atmosphere than any other sporting event. At least that's what I thought when I went to this game. Although all of the chants were in Swedish I did pick up on a few of them. And these chants and songs will last for ten minutes or more. I had a hard time keeping up simply because my throat was killing me from all the yelling and singing. It was no matter. For one of the first times being in Sweden I didn't feel like an exchange student. We were just as much Luleå hockey fans as the next person.

Every time our team scored (which happened a lot with a score of 5-1), the standing section would erupt. Hi-fives all around, jumping and yelling, and at one point I even got a celebratory rub on the head from some guy a row above me whom I never met before. I couldn't have asked for a more energy-packed evening in the town. Even now, three days later, I still have some of the chants and songs stuck in my head.

I'll conclude with a shot of the arena an hour before the game. I didn't get any other shots because of the realization that you weren't supposed to take any photos. Oops. The Coop Arena is, as you can see in the photo, much larger than Cheel (or depending on how long you've been alumni, Walker Arena). This facility holds more than 6000 spectators, and that night it was filled to about 90% capacity by my judgment.

This upcoming weekend I'm taking a trip to Jokkmokk for the traditional Swedish market. I'm planning to make a video post next time so keep checking this page out for more awesome experiences; not only mine but Lauren and Emily's as well.

Thanks for reading everyone!

- Jonathan

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