Emilia Andersson is a junior this year at Mankato State University in Minnesota, USA.
Elizabeth Etue: Give me some background on how you got involved with hockey?
Emilia Andersson: My mom has always been a hockey fan and as I was growing up, three of my four brothers played hockey. I was always at the rink watching them play and practice. One day, my mom asked me if I wanted to try hockey as well and I thought it looked like fun so I said yes. I ended up playing for three different teams, one boys’ team (with my brother) one girls team and one women’s team. I never got enough of it. I had found my passion in life.
EE: Was it challenging to find girls teams and leagues that are competitive at a young age?
EA: I found a girls team that was close to my home and that had a reputation of being a good team. The competition in our league wasn’t very good. We won every game pretty easily. We had only one team that was our caliber. That was the team we ended up playing against in every series final. But to become better, our coaches set up games against boys so that we really got some competition. And that is how we improved as individuals and as a team.
EE:Tell us a highlight from the national team.
EA:One highlight of my career would definitely be when we got the bronze medal in Winnipeg, Canada in the world championship with team Sweden. I was relatively new to the team but I still got to play and we won the bronze medal game against team Finland. Another highlight of my career would be the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. To be a part of that and to represent my country was amazing and that is something that I hope I get to experience again in 2014.
EE: You played for a club team in Sweden, why did you decide to come to the US to play hockey?
EA: I decided to go play college hockey in the U.S. because I felt I needed to do something new. I had been playing for my club team for almost 10 years. I needed to find some new motivation and what better way than challenging myself in a new country with a new team? Also, I had heard so much about it being so much fun. I thought it would be the best 4 years of my life and once I got recruited I didn’t doubt it one second that I would go. So far, it has been an amazing 3 years and I do not regret anything.
Also, I like the people here and I like the country. The people are so nice and friendly and they make me feel so welcome, plus I like speaking English and challenging myself to see how well I would do in school. Going to school here is a bit of a challenge since it is in my second language, but so far, I have been doing pretty well.
EE: Your teammates have been Finnish on your US team; how has that been, given Sweden/Finnish competition?
EA: Yes, Nina Tikkinen and Emmi Leinonen. Nina Tikkinen just graduated from MSU and I played against her in the 2010 winter Olympics. That was such an amazing experience that I got to share with my teammate and friend. Of course we were on different teams and we both want our own team to win but when it all comes down to it, we are still really good friends and we do not brag about any of our teams success.
Well, whenever Nina and I line up against each other on the ice in international events we always just kind of look at each other and smile. I always play her extra hard on the ice since she used to be my teammate and since we are such good friends. You don’t want your friend that is on the other team, to beat you in a 1-1 situation for example. But it has been great getting to know her and it is always extra nice to beat them now.
EE: How has your game changed since you started playing with the Swedish national team?
EA: I did my first tournament with the national team in 2005. My game has changed a lot since I first joined the national team. In 2005 I was this young shy girl that did not really have any faith in herself and she was very insecure on the ice. I didn’t play the game that I knew I could because I was so insecure.
Today, I see myself as a very strong and secure hockey player that can perform her best when it is needed. I have grown so much both as a person and as a hockey player within my 7 years on the national team. I see myself as a leader on the team now together with a few other girls and I show a good example on the ice.
EE: How would you describe yourself as a player?
EA: I am a stay at home defensemen. I like to make sure that no one gets past me and score. A few years ago, I was a little bit too defensive at times and I did not really engage in the offensive play. Today, I engage a lot more in the offensive play but at the same time, I always make sure I am ready for eventual rushes from the opponents and I never lose my spot on the ice. I am a very strong skater with good skating technique which makes it easier for me to engage in both the defensive play as well as the offensive play.
EE: How does US college game differ from club play in Sweden?
EA: The US college games differ quite a bit from the Swedish league. Since I play for a Division 1 hockey team, I am currently playing in the best league in the world. This means that the games we play are a lot faster than the Swedish games. The intensity is a little bit higher and the players are a little bit tougher.
EE: What is your sense of how the women's game in progressing in your country?
EA: Swedish women’s hockey has developed a lot within the past few years. A lot more girls have started playing hockey and they all seem to enjoy it. Maria Rooth, who is a former national team player and Olympic medalist, started her own hockey camp that was meant only for girls. It was the first all-girls hockey camp in Sweden, and it has really helped girls/women’s hockey’s development.
Every day, we are seeing girls that are willing to put the time and effort in to developing as hockey players and that is a huge step for our country. Plus, we now have a better women’s league in Sweden called Riksserien, with the top 8 teams. This has contributed to better competition and closer games.
EE: What would help the women's game internationally?
EA: To help the Swedish national team develop even more, I would suggest playing more games against the North American teams, USA and Canada. We don’t get to play them as often as we like. If we did get to play them more often, I strongly believe that we would be able to skate with them and play a lot tighter games against them. USA and Canada are currently the number 1 and 2 team in the world and the only way to get better is to play the best teams.