Fred wrote:Talking about potatoes. We all get so hyped about hockey here and yet when you look at EU it's still small potatoes
Looking at Europe as a whole, hockey is not that big, but in Scandinavia, Russia, former Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Latvia it is. The number of spectators from the SEL may seem small compared to NHL numbers, but Sweden is a rather sparsely populated country. Our biggest city, Stockholm, is bigger than Vancouver if you just look at the municipality (851,000 inhabitants vs 603,000) but if you include the entire urban area Vancouver has 2.3 million compared to Stockholm's 1.3, ie in reality Vancouver is almost twice as big.
In Sweden hockey is competing with football (ie soccer) for the title of national sport. In general you can say that soccer is bigger in southern Sweden and hockey in the north. Looking at spectator numbers, the average crowd at a game in Allsvenskan, the top league in football, drew a crowd of 7,326 spectators last season and hockey 6,385, but seven of the 16 teams in Allsvenskan averaged less than 6,000 spectators at their home games.
Djurgården*, one of the main sports teams in Stockholm, has both hockey and football on their agenda. Their football team averaged 8,671 spectators and their hockey team 7,723. Yet, if you consider that there are 55 games in the regular hockey season and only 30 in the football one, the total ticket sales would have been bigger for the hockey team.
In Gothenburg, Sweden's second city, the main football team would be IFK Göteborg, who averaged 10,849 spectators at home and the main hockey team would be Västra Frölunda*, averaging 10,482 spectators. Roughly the same.
Gävle, where I live, is the town furthest to the north to have a football team in Allsvenskan, yet four of the twelve teams in the SEL are located north of Gävle. Anyway, at this latitude hockey is already king. Gefle IF, our local football team, drew an average crowd of 4,286 spectators, whereas the local hockey team, Brynäs*, drew 6,265. The city of Gävle has some 71,000 inhabitants, or 95,000 in the municipality.
Further north, Modo* had an average home crowd of 6,119 people attending their games. This in a "city" of 29,000 people, or 55,000 in the municipality of Örnsköldsvik. Proportionally, 6,119 out of 55,000 would translate to a home crowd of 255,000 attending Vancouver's games...
And sure, Sweden fares rather well in football, the world's most popular sport. We've reached the World Cup semi finals four times, which is three more than England, and have earned one silver and two bronzes. This with a population of 9 million. But we do fare even better in hockey. Few people (outside of Sweden) can mention five Swedish football players, but I'm sure anyone interested in hockey can easily mention a dozen or more Swedish hockey players.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that in northern Sweden hockey is the main sport, and the sport most boys strive to excel in. It's just that we're not that many and we live far apart, so the crowds at games can not compare with the NHL, where most teams are stationed in cities that are far bigger than anything you can find in Scandinavia.
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*some current and former players of interest in the teams mentioned above:Djurgården
former: Mats Sundin, Marcus Krüger, Mariusz Czerkawski, Kent Nilsson, Gabriel Landeskog, Johnny Oduya, Mikael Tellqvist
current: Mattias & Daniel Tjärnqvist, Nils Ekman, Marcus Nilsson, Jimmy Ölvestad, Mika ZibanejadFrölunda
former: Daniel Alfredsson, Alexander Steen, Kristian Huselius, Henrik Lundqvist
current: Per-Johan Axelsson, Christian Bäckman, Joel Lundqvist, Fredrik Sjöström, Henrik TömmernesBrynäs
former: Tomas Sandström, Nicklas Bäckström, Pär Djoos, Jacob Markström, Börje Salming, Mats Näslund, Stefan, Persson, Brian Rafalski¹
current: Andreas Dackell, Johan Holmqvist, Jakob Silfverberg, Calle JärnkrookModo
former: Peter Forsberg, Markus Näslund, Thomas Gradin, Henrik & Daniel Sedin, Victor Hedman, Anders Hedberg, Tomas Jonsson, Anders Kallur, Samuel Påhlsson, Andreas Salomonsson
current: Mikael Tellqvist, Niklas Sundström, Freddy Meyer, Rob Schremp
(and GM Markus Näslund, asst GM Peter Forsberg, coach Ulf Samuelsson... )
¹Rafalski was not drafted out of college and instead opted for Europe. He spent one season in Sweden and three in Finland before landing a spot in the NHL