Each October since 2003, the best women’s club bandy teams from around the world have congregated in Sweden to compete for the Women’s World Cup of Bandy. The tournament has become an annual celebration of sorts, both to kick off the regular season, and also to establish preseason bragging rights among the powerhouse club teams of the traditional bandy nations. As can be expected, the participants in this prestigious event have included mostly Swedish and Russian club teams since the tournament’s inception. This year, however, history was made as the Minneapolis Bandolier women’s club team traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to play in the tournament. It marked the first time that the Women’s World Cup of Bandy featured a team from North America.
THREE GREAT DAYS IN NORWAY!
The journey to Sweden started in Norway, as the Bandolier team touched down in the Oslo Gardermoen Airport on Tuesday afternoon, October 25th. With that began three days of training and camaraderie with members of the Norwegian bandy contingent, who were also sending a squad, (Hovik) to the World Cup.
Tuesday evening featured a shared-ice practice between the Bandolier and Norway’s Ready club team at Oslo’s Bergbanen rink. It was the first time that the North Americans had the privilege of skating on a bandy rink since their final American Bandy Association First Division game this past February. Though the ladies had been training all summer in hockey arenas, it made a huge difference to get back onto the bandy pitch and get a real feel for their positions again. The 90-minute practice, run by Bandolier coach, Mikael Sandberg, also helped the North Americans get their legs moving after a long night of jet travel the previous night.
Day two was a shift up to a more competitive gear, as that evening the Bandolier faced off against Norway’s Hovik squad in an exhibition game that featured several players from both the US and Norwegian national teams. The game, played at Bergbanen under what started as a drizzle but became a steady rain into the second half, was an extremely entertaining tilt between two very evenly-matched squads. The North Americans ultimately won by a score of 2-0. It was a fun night and also a nice confidence-builder for the jet-lagged Bandolier team. The ladies showed excellent speed, looked to be in unison, and played with passion.
The final day in Norway started out with a short morning practice for the Bandolier at Oslo’s Jar hockey rink. That evening, the scene shifted off the ice and the focus was on friendship, as Norway’s Hovik team treated the Bandolier to a very special meal atop the hills surrounding the city. Nestled into a cozy hut, in the shadow of the beautiful Holmenkollen ski jump, members of the North American and Norwegian bandy contingents dined on delicious traditional food and drink from the region as they shared many stories and laughs. It was a wonderful evening of togetherness, and a perfect way to cap off three days of spectacular hospitality on the part of Norway’s bighearted bandy family.
The Bandolier cannot thank their Norwegian bandy sisters and brothers enough for the incredible generosity that they showed to the North American travelers. Several of the Minneapolis players stayed with host families while in Oslo. Not only did these families provide shelter and transportation for the ladies, but they also prepared wonderful meals for the players on a daily basis. The North American team sincerely hopes that someday they can repay the Norwegians for their incredible kindness... (Perhaps in the form of hosting a Norwegian group in a future bandy adventure in the United States!)
Early Friday morning, October 28th, fresh off of the previous night’s magnificent Norwegian meal, the Bandolier and Hovik bandy clubs boarded a bus bound for Sweden and the 2016 Women’s World Cup of Bandy. The travel time to Ale Arena was just under four hours, and as the players watched the sun rise up over the Swedish countryside, each team was filled with hope for what the tournament had in store for them. The North Americans in particular were looking to show the world that they have improved significantly over the years, and that the US would be a team to be reckoned with in future Women’s Bandy World Championship competitions.
The Bandolier had two games that Friday: one against Russian superpower, Rekord Irkutsk at 11:00am, and then another that night, (of the midnight madness variety) at 11:45pm against Sweden’s Nassjo club. While the North Americans did many good things, the outcomes were not what the team had hoped for. They fell to Rekord, 0-7 and lost to Nassjo, 1-6. Saturday featured only one game for Minneapolis: a 7:00pm showdown against the hometown club, (and three-time defending World Cup Champion) Kareby. In front of a packed house at Ale Arena, the Bandolier held their own for much of the game. The score was tied, 0-0 at halftime, but ultimately the home team prevailed, 4-0. The North Americans’ final game was Sunday morning at 10:00am against the stellar Swedish club team, Hammarby. The Bandolier again lost by a score of 0-4. Two opponents of the Bandolier team, (Rekord and Hammarby) would eventually go on to face off in the championship match of the 11-team tournament, with Rekord ultimately taking home the honor of 2016 World Cup Champion.
A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE!
While the scores of the games were certainly not what the Minneapolis team had hoped for, the foundation has been established and the future of North American bandy is unquestionably bright. The Bandolier ladies did several good things on the ice, and – more importantly – they all came home safely with a myriad of treasured memories that will last a lifetime.
Sports are so much more than wins and losses, and there is no question that the maiden voyage of Minneapolis Bandolier to the Women’s World Cup of Bandy was a huge success!