Before signing on to a team for the 2020-21 hockey season, I did not have a lot of information about professional hockey overseas. Knowing I wanted to continue my hockey career professionally, I talked with my teammates that had made the transition to the pro level and soon realized that playing in another country might be my best opportunity. At the end of summer, I was offered a spot on Djurgården’s Women’s Hockey team in Stockholm, Sweden and that’s where my new adventure began.
The first month was probably the most difficult. Although the time change, language, and currency were all obvious challenges to adjust to, simple actions like going to the grocery store became a nerve-racking subject. With the help of my phone and the google translate app, items at the store became more familiar to me in English. Transportation was also something to adjust to. The metro system in Stockholm is amazing, but can be tough at first glance, especially for someone growing up in Janesville, Wisconsin. I think one of my proudest moments early on was being able to get on and off the train without using a map and ending up in the right place! After getting those things down, I was able to relax a little more and start exploring what the city had to offer.
Normally, when it was not a game day, I would start my day with practice followed by a workout, giving me the afternoons to explore. In the beginning, I was most attracted to the museums. My favorite was “The Vasa museum” because of the historic Vasa ship that was recovered from bottom of the Stockholm harbor over 300 years after it first sank. If you also know anything about Sweden, you’d know that they love their coffee or fika (in Swedish). Many days, I would explore a new cafe, possibly indulging in a slice cake. Princess cake soon became my new favorite treat. Yellow sponge cake layered with whipped cream and custard, shaped into a dome, with green-colored marzipan on the outside. It was so addicting that in my first week of discovering it I had almost four slices! We also had extra motivation from my teammates boss, who would give us a whole princess cake if we beat our rival team, AIK.
When it came to the hockey, I felt most comfortable. Players come from all around the world to play in Sweden for the SDHL. However, the connections I have made with people throughout my playing career made playing in Sweden feel not so different from past seasons. Some of my teammates on Djurgården were previously on teams that I played against in college; North Dakota, Boston University, and Syracuse, just to name a few. Additionally, other teams had players from the WCHA and that made it fun to see familiar faces in games. Every team in the SDHL was extremely competitive and games were tough. The big difference in the hockey here was that all the games are played on an Olympic size rink. The wider ice surface took some getting used to, but I learned to like it. Especially for the extra space to use my speed and protect puck from opponents.
From practice, to exploring, and games on the weekend, there was always something going on living in Stockholm. Unfortunately, my team lost in the semi-finals, but I know that throughout this experience I acquired so many positives. I realized that within my 6 months in Sweden I not only got to continue playing the sport I love professionally but also the opportunity to live in another country and all that has to offer. I gained so many new experiences, connections, and memories that I will never forget.
- Alexis Mauermann
Vasa Museum Photo credit: Görans Hockeyfoto Princess Cake