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An introduction to the Swedish Hockey League

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North American fans may not be so familiar with the SHL, but it is a veritable factory for NHL greats, and worth knowing more about.

Frolunda

In this introduction to the Swedish Hockey League, I attempted to compare the current SHL teams (and a few classic teams in Allsvenskan) to NHL teams via correlation of play, culture, and history. This is a personal interpretation, but it's a nice way of getting some insight into what is regarded as the third-best hockey league in the world.

Brynäs

One of the "original six teams" in Sweden, the team is comparable to the NHL's Original Six Detroit Red Wings. Brynäs is a classic team, has won many championships, and they are always competitive no matter the lineup.

The roster has seen its share of turnover with players moving to the NHL or finishing off their career with a last hope of a trophy (also not unlike the Detroit Red Wings in that regard).

Some of the players who have had part of their careers with Brynäs include Stig and Börje Salming, and Mats Näslund. It was also where Jacob Silfverberg got his first start in professional hockey.

Djurgården

The Montreal Canadiens of the league, with the most Le Mat trophies in SHL history. Having been the home of many great players and being a true classic team, you have to speak with a "Stockholm accent" in this esteemed club.

The eight numbers retired are among the most by an SHL, thoguh they have yet to retire Mats Sundin's jersey. Other famous players include Sven Tumba, Lasse Björn, Anders Hedberg, and current NHLer Patric Hörnqvist.

Frölunda

With the spotlight on the team during the ice hockey season, and always playing for an enormous crowd (Sweden wise), with high expectations and the high pay cheques to match, the New York Rangers are the obvious choice.

But at one time Frölunda was called "Wild West" with a play style similar to the Broad Street Bullies, so they've have a bit of the Philadephia Flyers in their DNA.

Former players include Calle Johansson, Daniel Alfredsson, the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

Färjestad

With the mountains and forests to the west, this is the Colorado Avalanche of the league. Like the Avalanche they have had a few league championships, coming in the 80s and 00s.

A team that many people remember fondly,as the underdog, Färjestad has turned into a classic big team that has become an attractive option to prospective players.

Famous players: Håkan Loob, Bent-Åke Gustafsson, and Thomas Steen

HV71

A young team from the Bible Belt of Sweden, HV71 used to be big, heavy, and always just on the verge of greatness.

A lot like the Nashville Predators, with the exception being HV71's four championships in 1995, 2004, 2008 and 2010.

Famous players: Ulf Dahlen, Johan Davidsson and Stefan Liv

Karlskrona

The ugly duckling from the country, Karlskrona runs a tight ship with a low budget, just like Arizona Coyotes.

Karlskrona has some great fans and the team seems content to be up in SHL just for this season without risking the economy for the future.

The frugal nature of the club means it has neither attracted nor produced any famous players ... yet.

Linköping

Located near a Swedish Airforce base, where they actually construct the aircraft, this team plays with speed and skill.

It would have been easy to pick the Winnipeg Jets, but this is the Tampa Bay Lightning of Sweden. Also a young team, it has (in my opinion) one of the better logos in the league. They don't have the championship of their NHL counterpart. A quietly good team, Linköping has gone under the radar of the average Swede.

Magnus Johansson is the most famous player to have been a member of this young club.

Luleå HC

Usually a big, strong, almost brutal team, but always filled with skill. More often than not, the team underachieves in the playoffs. Just like the San Jose Sharks.

The Northernmost team of the SHL, with a big harbour (again like San Jose) Luleå has one championship (1996) and finished first overall in the 2011-12 regular season.

The team also won the inaugural Champions Hockey League title in 2015.

Famous players: Mikael Renberg and Tomas Holmström.

Malmö

From the "Republic" in the south, they think of themselves as better than the rest of the country, with a lot of young players pushing forward.

Skilled and fast, there can be no other comparable team than the Dallas Stars.

Famous players: Mats Näslund and Tomas Sandström both finished their careers there.

Modo

From the far north, lots of youngsters, and a school for young talent historically, this is where Peter Forsberg, Marcus Naslund, Victor Hedman, and the Sedins come from.

With all the young talent and no success, this compares quite closely to the recent woes of the Edmonton Oilers. Offense first with a young lineup, they used to be good, but now struggle perpetually.

I could list a full team of famous players form here, but to mention a few: Anders Hedberg, Samuel Påhlsson, Ulf Samuelsson and Anders Kallur.

Rögle

The cousin from the country that even family forget about sometimes, great local fans were just a few miles away, but they would rather support another team (Frölunda, HV71 or most likely Malmö).

They have great players starting their careers here, Kenny Jönsson and Henrik Lundqvist both played here for six seasons (from ages 11-17) as an example, as well as both less famous brothers Jörgen Jönsson and Joel Lundqvist.

This is just like how players have left Buffalo for success elsewhere.

Skellefteå

Like the Chicago Blackhawks of the SHL, they spent a significant amount of time being terrible.

Apologies to fans of both teams, but they are both currently considered to be dynasties, after having turned things around spectacularly.

Skillful offense, and a coach that makes the team better every year no matter what you think will happen.

Famous players include John Klingberg (both Skellefteå and Frölunda) and current player Axel Holmström

Växjö Lakers

A young team from the shores, with a recent Championship. The Anaheim Ducks come to mind as a comparable North American team.

Skilled, with but with a bit of old core, but having a tough year so far as well. Shjon Podein (won Stanley Cup with Colorado).

Martin Gerber and Viktor Fasth are the most famous players to have donned the Lakers jersey, and I don't mean basketball when I say that.

Orebro

Örebro

The very existence of this team is easy to forget. They originated in the 1990's, and have made a rapid climb through the series system.

They are sort of just there, but can be difficult to play against, and are bound to surprise you every now and then.

They are somewhat like the Florida Panthers of Sweden. Also, they rarely get their due credit when they do manage to pull off something impressive.

They have yet to be able to boast any famous players in the NHL.

AIK

From the Capital, they have high expectations, but rarely manage to live up to them. With the new fan section of the Ottawa Senators taking the ideas from Stockholm (albeit from Djurgården).

This is easily the Ottawa Senators of Swedish hockey.

Famous players: Mattias Nordström, Dick Tärnström are among the more known in North America.

Leksand

This is like the friend you always love to see, who is from your hometown in the middle of nowhere, and you live smack dab in the middle of a major city.

The arena holds more people than the actual population of the town, but it draws a raucous crowd often.

I can't think of a good North-American hockey team to compare them to, but Football's Green Bay Packers certainly come to mind.

Famous players: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Filip Forsberg, Per-Erik Eklund and Johan Hedberg.

Västerås

They were good a long time ago, but struggle when the big games start nowadays. Stockhom people would use the term "Gateway to the West" as this is where the the lake Mälaren ends, and that is about it for the east coast people.

Currently struggling in a Muder-Death-Kill league, as it is so important to win it to go up to the SHL, the St. Louis Blues comes to mind.

Famous players: Nicklas Lidstrom. Do they really need to have anyone else?

Björklöven

Another leaf-logo team, so this was an easy case, this is Sweden's version of Toronto Maple Leafs.

They used to be fantastic, but have not won the cup since 1987, which is but 20 years after the last Toronto win.

They seem to be in a constant rebuild, but are a classic team, and being the only good sports team in the city means the pressure is enormous (even in a city with 100.000 inhabitants).

Famous players: Patrik and Peter Sundström as well as  Ulf Dahlen.