Molly Engstrom takes on Stockholm

The former Connecticut Whale captain discusses her new club and growing women’s hockey

Originally published Feb 16, 2017 for The Ice Garden

In December, Molly Engstrom announced she would be continue her hockey season in Stockholm, opting to leave the NWHL and play with the Djurgården club of the SDHL. The former Connecticut Whale defenseman is now living in Södermälm, an island community part of Stockholm.

A view of Stadsgarden Tegelvikshamnen (port) from Södermälm. Courtesy of Molly Engstrom. 

Before the close of the regular season this weekend, The Ice Garden connected with Engstrom about her new home, her new team, and her ongoing commitment to growing women’s ice hockey.

The Ice Garden: You began the new year with lots of change. What has the past month been like for you?

Molly Engstrom: Yes, I definitely began the new year with lots of change. The past month has been really great. It took me at least 2 weeks to fully adjust to the time, at least a week to properly say ‘how are you’ in Swedish and another week to adjust to the size of the ice over here, but all is well! I live right in Stockholm, the city is so beautiful, my apartment is great. It has been fun getting to know my teammates, I am skating a lot, I am having fun exploring my diverse, vintage, bohemian neighborhood and beyond, and I am taking a Swedish class. We are heading into playoffs soon so we are all looking forward to that.

An image from Engstrom’s neighborhood Södermälm,  The area housed shipyard workers and other laborers in the 17th century.  Today, it is an up-and-coming area in the Katarina-Sofia district of the island.  Courtesy of Molly Engstrom

TIG: Walk us through a typical day for you in Stockholm.

ME: Depending on the day, a typical day can include me either going for a jog, going to class, or going to the café with my computer, journal and Swedish 1 text book in the morning. I am enjoying cooking lunch and dinner in my apartment or grabbing food when I am out. We lift as a team typically 3 days a week at 6:45 pm and go on ice afterward. We typically skate 5-6 days a week. We have games Wednesdays and/or Saturdays and Sundays. Two games per week and sometimes three. In my “free time” I am spending time with my teammates, we love to fika! I also spend a lot of time walking through the old streets of [Stockholm] exploring and taking pictures, popping into museums and reading as much of the history as I can.

Engstrom exploring with Tori Hickel (front), Sam Hansen Josephine Jakobsen (front left) and Andrea Dalen (back right).
Courtesy of Molly Engstrom

I started a meetup group called Stockholm Athletes to meet new people. We had our first gathering tonight! Fika of course and we are going to go check out a Djurgåden soccer game this week!

TIG: Regarding the term “fika”. What do you think would be the best description? It seems as though the term refers to “grabbing coffee” or more generally “to fellowship” or “hang out”?

ME: Yes, fika is a Swedish concept for grabbing a coffee accompanied by something sweet or a sandwich, but it’s really more about the social aspect. In my Swedish class, my teacher was teaching us the different times of the day. So morning, afternoon and evening is morgon, dag, kväll and natt. She explained, “Okay here are the times of the day on the clock: Fika, morgon, fika, dag, fika, kväll …etc.” Fika fika fika!

A local shop with some fika sweets in the window
Courtesy of Molly Egnstrom

TIG: From the schedule, it looks as though you play more games per week than you did in the NWHL. What are the other differences to your hockey itinerary?

ME: Yes, as I mentioned we play more games here. The other major adjustment in terms of hockey would be lifting as a team. Everyone is able to make team lifts so it’s nice to spend that time together. In terms of spending more time together here, we are part of the Djurgården club which I believe has 27 different sport entities so it is a big organization. It’s nice to see the men’s teams around, the SHL team as well as the J20 and J18 teams. We are all going in different directions at the same time. You definitely feel like you’re a part of something.

TIG: How are you adjusting to your new team? What role have you embraced on and off the ice for Djurgården?

ME: I feel pretty well adjusted to the team. It didn’t take long. They are getting to know me a little more as a person every day and vice versa. It’s fun getting to know them. I am quite a bit older than most of the girls, a lot older than some of them so I am just trying to be a good role model on and off of the ice. Work hard as always and share my thoughts and ideas with them to hopefully help everyone move forward.

Molly Engstrom discuss what exercises they should run with Alexandra Cipparone, during training.
Photo and caption by Johan Sahlén

TIG: In an interview, Djurgården Women’s Sport Manager Nils Ekman, commented that your professionalism has been an important influence on some of the younger players in particular. What is your reaction to that?

ME: I would say that is positive feedback. I try to carry myself that way and I think it’s important for us to do so as ambassadors. If I can have that type of influence on the girls and the team I consider that a win.

TIG: Djurgården went 2-1 [at the end of January]. What were your impressions of the way the team played? What would you like to see the team continue to work on?

ME: Yes we lost to Luleå that week, who is currently the first place team. In general, I think the team is getting better, even since I’ve been here. I would like to see our D take charge in the D zone.

TIG: On February 19th, Djurgården will play an outdoor game against Sundsvall. The match seems to be marketed as an opportunities for fans to enjoy the game and interact with the team. What can you tell us about the event?

ME: Yes I am so excited about the outdoor game! It will be the first Outdoor Game in SDHL history and it will be played on Danderydsvallen (the name of the rink) in Danderyd, just 15 minutes north of Stockholm. It will be a great day for families to come watch some great hockey and enjoy the afternoon together.

They are encouraged to bring their skates to skate on the rink right next to ours, there will be burgers and hotdogs from the outdoor grill and hot chocolate. I can imagine it will have a very Swedish feel to it, small, warm and welcoming. We will have players representing Team Russia, Team USA, Team Sweden, Team Norway and Team Denmark in the game. It will be a historical moment for the league and hopefully something that will continue to grow in coming years. Swedish TV will be there, SVT.

The last time I skated outside was at Fenway when we were on Tour in 2009 with the US team and then last year at Greenwich Skating Club with the [Connecticut] Whale. Both practices were phenomenal experiences, but getting to play a game outdoors is going to be a dream come true. I haven’t done so since I was 12 I think!

Engstrom and her teammates skate at Kungsträdgården (Left to right: Sophie Johansson, Molly Engstrom, Delaney Middlebrook, Samantha Hanson and Tori Hickel)
Courtesy of Molly Engstrom

TIG: Overall, what has the fan support been like for the team?

ME: Overall, there are fewer fans at games here, day to day. However, they do promotional games from time to time to continue to work on increasing the fan base. We played in front of a really nice crowd in Brynäs (2,954) on January 14th for their attendance game and HV71 just set the record for attendance with 4,563 fans.

TIG: What other thoughts would you like to share about playing and living in Sweden?

ME: I am definitely someone who believes everything happens for a reason. We always seem to want proof but so often we don’t find out until later why things happen. Just as I am so grateful for my experience at home with the NWHL, I am equally as grateful to be here, playing in Sweden and living in this beautiful city. There is much to give, mostly thanks. #growthegame

TIG: How long after the season do you plan to stay in Sweden? Will you look to stay, or make your back to the states? Is there another adventure ahead?

ME: My flight back home is already booked for [the end of March]. I’m just on a 3 month tourist visa right now. We haven’t had those conversations about next year yet so I will have those conversations with Danijela and Nils after the season. Of course, there is always another adventure ahead 🙂

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