Sunday, December 03, 2006
"LHC" and Swedish Sports
Those of you that know me well are aware that following and occasionally playing sports takes up far too much of my mind and time. I was under the illusion that coming halfway across the world might add a deeper dimension to my life and reduce my interest in American sports. Well, thanks to the wonders of the internet, my sports following has remained at the "overly preoccupied" level all through autumn and an exciting college and NFL American football season. Picture #4 above is a special Linköpinglivin tribute to my UCLA Bruins and one of the best games I've ever seen, no matter where in the world I was watching. Down goes Troy!
Now back to Linköping. This weekend I attended my first "Sverige Ishockey Liga" match between the hometown Linköping Hockey Club ("LHC") and last place Malmö at the new Cloetta Center here in Linköping. The Cloetta Center is just a few years old and a fantastic place to watch hockey (since I'm such a conoisseur of hockey arena enjoyment). With a capacity of 8,000 seats, the Cloetta Center is large enough to be a respectable arena and small enough to make every seat a good seat and to feel like you're a part of all the action. Everything else (food, accessability, parking, entertainment) was all very similar to the previous arena experiences I have had (the last hockey game I attended was at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2003). On this day, Malmö played tough and LHC had to show some grit just to end in a tie, 3 - 3.
Overall, football (I am confident enough in my American readers not to have to qualify what "type" of football I am referring to) is the dominant European sport and Sweden is no different. Ice hockey and other winter sports are the focus all winter and track & field is very popular during summer. Cloetta Center-sized arenas are all over the country and Stockholm and Gothenburg have larger stadiums and arenas for the larger populations.
My sense is that sports are not as much of a cultural obesession here as they are in the U.S. Trying to explain to Europeans why we care so much about 18 - 22 year-olds who play sports is a challenge and also helps to put things in perspective, but generally they understand the "these are athletes that don't get paid and simply love to play" argument, though I know that this argument is questionable with the current state of college football and basketball. Yet the fans at the Cloetta Center clearly love their Linköping Hockey Club--love that White Lions cheering section--and I hear that roughly 10 million out of 14 million Swedes and Finns watched their teams clash for the gold medal in last year's Winter Olympics. The Blue and Yellow prevailed--keep up the love, Sverige!
And as for UCLA, #1 in basketball rankings and the de-throning of the crosstown rival isn't a bad way to head into the holidays with my Trojan-heavy family. See you in a couple weeks.
"Jul" has descended upon Sweden. Watch for that blog entry coming soon.
And that's a friend, Andreas, in the picture with me above. Thanks for my welcome to Linköping, Andreas. Go LHC!