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Caption: Oxford University Blues Vs Brinken Vets.

 

OUIHC Tour Stockholm, Sweden

Between Hilary and Trinity 2015, nine Men’s Blues and four Women’s Blues left the bubble of Oxford and ventured north to Scandinavia for the OUIHC tour.

The OUIHC have been on numerous other tours including to Courchevel courtesy of alumnus John McCall MacBain who restarted Blues ice hockey tours back in the 80’s, but it was a first time the Blues have made the trip north.

After a very early flight, the OUIHC landed in Stockholm Arlanda, cruised down to central Stockholm in a pair of nice rented wheels and set up camp in a Carl Larsson house next to one of the Stockholm archipelago’s many harbours.

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Caption: The tour team outside their Svenska hus.

 

After quickly acquainting themselves with their rooms and the lovely hostess, Mona, the team were off to Östermalms IP in central Stockholm. The next few hours consisted of an unusually early on-ice training session with the Royal Blue, the hockey team of the Royal institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolans). Founded in 1827, KTH is one of the top universities in Sweden and one of top technical universities in Europe. After a great training session with the Swedes, the team retired back to their cabin for a night of a certain card game made for horrible people.

 

The Saturday of tour provided an opportunity for exploring the beautiful Swedish capital taking in such sites as the Town Hall (with Tre Kronor spire), Gamla Stan (old town), the Nobel Museum, the Royal Palace and noting the many different islands that form the city. Despite a number of appeals from a certain player, time did not allow for a visit to the Vasa museum on Djurgården, known for housing the warship Vasa which sank during it’s maiden voyage in 1628.

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Caption: Walking passed the government buildings into Gamla Stan (Old Town)

 

From cultural vultures to hockey enthusiasts, the OUIHC arrived for a 4pm face-off as VIP guests to the KTH (Stockholm) Vs Chalmers (Göteborg) Varsity Match presented by The Scholar. Swedish university hockey at its finest saw 12 goals scored (7-5 win for KTH) and many assists awarded – no less than what to expect from a nation of the Nordic model. Following emphatic celebrations from the players and the fans (especially the OUIHC), all three clubs, KTH – Oxford – Chalmers, headed to Stureplan for dinner at the nightclub Collage. Exemplar Swedish cooking was provided and glasses were raised with both KTH’s Pontus Håstlund and Oxford’s Tim Donnison delivering impromptu speeches from the Captain’s table with special mentions to both KTH and Chalmers, thanks to the respective captains and The Scholar. Following a toast to university ice hockey at our respective institutions (skål!), the night turned towards the dance floor.

The following day proved to be a tough one for the Blues, not only because of lack of sleep but also down to the fact they were due to play two fixtures against veteran teams – at 12noon and 7pm. The former icing a veteran player who had played against the Oxford City Stars many decades previously.  After a dehydrating ordeal against AC Camelen, the match was followed by a buffet of home-cooked BBQ lamb and drinks – quite different from the staple post-match beers seen in the British university league. Much water consumption later, the Blues stepped out onto the ice against Brinken Vets, the home team of the rink that KTH had won their Varsity Match in the afternoon before. Again, the Blues quickly learned what Swedish hockey was all about with a showcase of precision passing and excellent off-the-puck movement shown by the veterans of the game. Despite a losing score line, a number of Blues made the score sheet, and all were in agreement that it was an absolute pleasure to skate alongside these Swedish gentlemen. A shout out goes to Teddy Hall fresher Josh Hammond who secured his first OUIHC goal with an accurate one timer from the slot that found the back of the net after a great feed from talented Brookes student-athlete Jack Woods.

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Caption: Post-game photo with Brinken Vets and the KTH Captain.

 

After three on-ice sessions in Stockholm, the OUIHC used Monday to travel to neighbouring town Södertälje to browse one of the largest hockey outlets in Europe (HockeyMonkey.eu) and get a game of shinny in at the Gnesta ice rink (alumni include a number of NHL players such as Nicklas Grossman of the Philadelphia Flyers). The break from the city provided a slower pace and an opportunity to relax after three hectic days, a theme that continued on into the evening as the team took in a meal at a local sports bar to catch the SHL playoff game between Linköping and Skellefteå – one of the Women’s Blues being an alumnus of the Linköping women’s team.

As this was the last night in Sweden it only made sense to OUIHC alumnus and Swedish native Richard Lindgren-Eklöw to take a dip in the chilling Baltic waters. The immediate reaction of the team was to eagerly follow, if not slightly naïvely, down to the harbour to run headlong into the freezing water. Saner heads did not prevail and the experience proved to be an effective get-up-and-go.

The day of departure saw an early morning open scrimmage in a third Stockholm ice rink of which the quality of ice has never be seen in the UK. Safe to say that wearing wet kit is not for the faint-hearted and rather an unpleasant experience, perfect practice for both blues teams for the National Championships that are held every year in April.

With the impending realisation that tour 2015 was coming to close, it provided a chance to look back on the previous five days and realise how awesome they were. However, touring goes beyond turning up to a new place and playing hockey against strangers, it is about an exchange of culture, knowledge and passion for the game that goes beyond the ice rink. Instead, it forms the foundations and establishes relationships for future generations of student hockey players to benefit from in whatever forms that they may take. As emphasised during the Varsity dinner, university hockey is on the rise in our respective university communities and as a university club with values of integration, respect and equal opportunity, we have the chance to build from this and keep that momentum going.

With that thought in mind, a special thank you goes out to Pontus and the Royal Blue lads for sharing their Varsity weekend with us – we hope to return the favour in Oxford! Hej då Sverige – Tack så mycket!

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Caption: The KTH Royal Blue and Oxford University Blues prior to the Stockholm-Göteborg Varsity Match.