Thursday, February 16, 2017

This Is Not Curling

Some people think curling and bandy are the same thing. They’re not. They are very different.

But it’s easy to see how folks could get confused. Both games are obscure sports played in northern countries on ice. Both sports have a fanatical following in the little corner of the world where they are played.  In the case of curling, we’re talking about Canada. And when it comes to bandy, it’s Sweden. And both games have a beer culture associated with them. 

But here’s where the differences begin.  In curling, the beer is often consumed during the match (think bowling). But in bandy, the first beer is rarely poured until after the match is over. Another distinction between the two sports is that only one of them is an Olympic sport.  I bet you’ll be shocked to find out which one. I’ll give you a hint:  It’s the one where you don’t wear a helmet but you do wear clothes like this: 

No, this is not an a cappella group. These four dandies are the members of Norway's Olympic curling team. You can tell they are real curlers by the way they hold their brooms, with the bristles up so they don't smoosh them.

If you know anything at all about Scandinavia, you probably know that Sweden and Norway have had a long and bitter rivalry. These two countries have been at each others' throats since long before the Birkebeiners carried Håkon Håkonsson over the mountains from Lillehammer to Rena in the year 1206. And it continues to this day.

Seawolf skier Hanna Slotte finished up her studies last spring and headed back to her Swedish home.  Naturally, with her college skiing career behind her, Hanna was looking for a new and exciting sport to dive into.  She took one look at the photo of the Norwegian curling team above and decided that a year or two spent at Meråker was plenty enough Norwegian culture for one lifetime, so she decided to do the patriotic thing and took up bandy instead.

Hanna. Dangling.

Hanna has spent the winter working her way up through the ranks of the Swedish bandy federation. And her success in her new sport has been so meteoric that she’s already earned a spot as an “anfallare” (attacker) on the Uppsala BOIS A-team in the "Allsvenskan" league, Sweden’s second division. That’s just one division below Sweden’s premier bandy division, comprised of the best bandy players in Sweden!

How are you going to get past this?

I was so impressed with Hanna’s success in this sport, and wanting to catch her in action before she got so big and famous that I wouldn’t be able to get access to her anymore, I skipped two days’ worth of UAA Ski Team practices earlier this week and took the UAA Nordic Ski Team Blog's private jet over the pole to try to catch a glimpse of number 19 in action in an Uppsala BOIS second division game. I was lucky to snag one of the last tickets for the game at the ticket window before they sold out. Here are a few of the photos I was able to get of Hanna in action.

Check out the "transfer" that Hanna picked up on her right elbow. And now check out the color of the opposing team's helmets. They don't call her an "anfallare" for nothing! You might get past Hanna, but she's going to make you pay.

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