Last night was ‘Högskolan i Gävle Night’ for the local professional hockey team’s match so we got a pair of free tickets. We showed up too late for the free korv med bröd (hot dog), but we did get seats in the lower section.
The Elitserien (top Swedish league) match was between the local Brynäs Tigers and HV71 from Jönköping. With only 3 games remaining in the regular season the game was important for Brynäs as they had not yet qualified for the playoffs, but it would be a tough test against the current league leaders HV71. After initially carrying the play HV started to fade and surrendered a goal near the end of the first period. The second period saw penalty trouble for both teams and thus a lot of power plays. Brynäs was able to score two more goals for a comfortable 3-0 lead going into the third. HV71 never really threatened in the third and the game ended 3-0 guaranteeing Brynäs a spot in the playoffs and sent the crowd home happy.
Compared to an NHL game the players were smaller, slower and mostly quite young (although there were a few NHL veterans closing out their careers in their home country). There were no fights, no big hits, limited forechecking and not a lot of charging the net. The passing was quite good though as they liked to play on the outsides of the big ice surface so long passes had to be executed accurately. With no TV timeouts (they broadcast without commercials) the game moves really quickly, but they take an almost 20 minute break between periods. I guess that lets the TV guys get their commercials in and lets the fans have a beer in the concourse since they aren’t allowed to drink in the stands.
The arena is pretty new, but only hosts about 8000 people and the announced attendance was around 5500 so there were lots of empty seats. The fans that were there though tended to be quite loyal with the standing room section close to where we sat being the most boisterous. They banged on a big drum, waved flags and sang songs pretty much nonstop the entire match. The crowd was also younger and more family oriented than you’d find at an NHL game (at least in Canada) since tickets are reasonably priced and easily available.
Even without any real emotional attachment to the outcome we enjoyed ourselves and the atmosphere, although I don’t think I’ll be buying a Tigers jersey and learning the fight songs any time soon.