When we consider ice hockey, one of the first names that come to mind is Sweden. For a country where winter sports are highly popular, ice hockey takes precedence over many other sports in the country. It is one of Sweden’s five most popular sports, following closely behind football.
Not only is ice hockey a favourite amongst locals, but the country’s men’s and women’s national teams have achieved considerable international success and won numerous medals and championships. The country’s premier ice hockey league is also one of the greatest in the world, and many Swedish players, including Johan Franzen, Patrik Berglund, and Thomas Steen, have played in the NHL.
So, let’s look at the evolution of ice hockey in Sweden and the sport’s current status in the country.
History of Ice Hockey in Sweden
The popularity of ice hockey increased quickly after it was first introduced in London in 1989. Soon most of the European continent was playing the sport. Before ice hockey became popular, bandy dominated in the Scandinavian countries. But it was soon replaced, and around 1910, ice hockey gained the status of one of the most popular sports in Sweden.
In 1920 ice hockey was introduced to the Olympics and was played for the first time at the Antwerp Summer Olympics. Sweden finished the tournament in fourth place and made a strong place for itself internationally.
Initially, ice hockey was regulated and managed by the Swedish Football Association. However, in November 1922, the Swedish Football Association’s ice hockey division separated and was formally established as the Swedish Ice Hockey Association. The association was a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1920, even before it was a separate entity from the national football association.
Today the Swedish Ice Hockey Association is responsible for organising the country’s domestic leagues and oversees participation in international events.
Sweden’s National Ice Hockey Team
The Swedish men’s national ice hockey team is one of the strongest in the world and a part of the Big Six, the strongest ice hockey teams in the world, including Sweden, Canada, the United States, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Finland.
The men’s national team has a glorious past and continues to be successful in the international arena. The team has won many medals in the Olympics and World Championships. In 2006, Sweden won both the Olympics and the World Ice Hockey Championship and became the first country to claim both titles in the same year.
Sweden was also the second country to win the World Championship at home ground in 2013, the first one being the Soviet Union in 1986. Besides the World Championship, the Swedish has won numerous Olympic medals, including two gold, three silver, and four bronze.
In 2021, the men’s team could not reach the playoff round in the World Championship, which was a first. The team is currently in 5th place in the IIHF rankings, while in 2021, it was ranked 7th, its lowest rank to date.
The Swedish women’s national team has been playing internationally since 1987. The team secured a third position at the World Championship in 2005 and 2007 and first position in the European Championship in 1998.
The women’s team has also appeared in the Olympics seven times since 1998 and won a silver medal in 2006 and a bronze medal in 2002. The Swedish women’s ice hockey players are currently ranked in 8th place worldwide.
Domestic Ice Hockey Competitions in Sweden
Sweden has a comprehensive domestic ice hockey structure with the SHL Swedish Hockey League, the country’s highest division of men’s ice hockey. The league was established in 1975 and comprises 14 teams currently. The most successful team in the league is Farjestad BK, with ten titles, while Djurgardens IF and Brynas IF are in second place.
Matches conducted in the SHL’s yearly season are one of the highest-attended sporting events in the country and second only to the domestic league matches of football. The winner of the SHL qualifies to participate in the Champion’s Hockey league.
The Swedish Ice Hockey League follows a promotion and relegations system with HockeyAllsvenskan, the second-highest professional ice hockey league for men in the country. The league was established in 2005, and presently, it has 14 teams like the SHL. HockeyAllsvenskan follows a promotion and relegation system with Hockeyettan, the third-highest league in the country.
For women, the Swedish Women’s Ice Hockey League is the highest division in the country. It was established in 2007 as Riksserien and was renamed to Swedish Women’s Ice Hockey League in 2017. The league follows a promotion and relegation system with Damettan, Sweden’s second-highest women’s ice hockey division.