The international break gave us a chance to see the Four Nations Cup take place in Canada. This is an annual tournament between Canada, USA, Sweden and Finland in women’s hockey.
The strength of the Swedish league can be seen in that one of the winning American team plays here in Sweden, eight of the Finnish team that came third and 17 of Sweden’s own Damtrekronorna who finished without a win in the tournament.
Below we will take a longer look at the cross-pollination between North America and Sweden in today’s women’s hockey scene
The increase of North Americans in the SDHL
As little as four year's ago there were only 4 North Americans playing in the Swedish Women's Hockey League (SDHL), and only one of them played the entire season in Europe. This season there are 26, including players from both the Gold and Silver medal team from the 2018 Olympics. Unsurprisingly, the Canadians are who are in the majority with 20.
Many of these imports are high impact players and are leading the league in points. That includes nearly half of the top 15 Points scorers. Furthermore, two players who played in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), Michela Cava (Toronto Furies) and Danielle Stone (Calgary Inferno), are also the top points scorers for their current clubs who are in first and second position in the SDHL at time of writing.
The dramatic impact of the NCAA
Stone is one of the few players in the SDHL who has come to Sweden having played in the Canadian college league, USports. Whereas the majority have come from the NCAA, the American college system. But this league is not just developing North American players. 15 of the top 25 Points scorers today in the SDHL are graduates from the States. That including a whole raft of nationalities including last year's top Goal scorer and Swiss Olympian, Lara Stalder (Minnesota-Duluth) and the best player on Total Points, Finnish Olympic bronze medalist, Michelle Karvinen (North Dakota). Even the current top scoring Swede and 2006 Olympic Silver medalist, Pernilla Winberg is a NCAA graduate.
Swedes in the top North American leagues
At the moment there are no Swedes in either Canada's USport college league or the CWHL. And only one person in the NWHL, Michelle Löwenhielm, starting her first season at Connecticut Whale after four years at Minnesota-Duluth. But it might also be worth keeping an eye on the six 19-21 years about to start the 2018/9 season in the NCAA. The most notable so far is Sara Hjälmarsson, the 20 year old who is set to play for Providence College having scored 3 points in six Olympic matches for Sweden in 2018.
The cross-Atlantic exchange of players is still at and early stage of development. But you can be sure as time goes on that the dream to be a women's hockey pro will lead to an increased cross-pollination of Nordic and North American players seeking their gold on the other side of The Pond.