Feb 19, 2011
Swede success for Barracudas’ Danijela Rundqvist
Swede success for Barracudas’ Danijela Rundqvist. A CHANGE OF SCENERY: Burlington Barracudas’ Danijela Rundqvist, 26, came to Canada after playing for the same team in Sweden for 10 years. Herb Garbutt – Burlington Post Type Danijela Rundqvist’s name into Google and take a look at the pictures under the image search.
Among the first four images are a picture of a referee trying to separate the Swedish forward and Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser, who has ripped off her opponent’s helmet. Beside it, a photo of Rundqvist and Canadian Gillian Ferrari on the ice with Rundqvist’s stick up around the neck of her rival.
If the International Olympic Committee is worried about a lack of challengers for Canada and the United States in women’s international hockey, it certainly has nothing to do with the desire and compete-level of players like Rundqvist.
If Peter Forsberg and Tomas Holmstrom haven’t dispelled the Don Cherry-fuelled belief that Swedish hockey players aren’t tough, Rundqvist is doing her part to put the myth to rest in the women’s game.
“I don’t start anything,” Rundqvist says, “but I don’t take anything either.”
Sounds very Canadian, doesn’t it?
So it’s not surprising that when Rundqvist decided she needed a change to further her hockey career, she came to the home of the two-time Olympic champs. Just 26, Rundqvist was representing Sweden for the third time at the Olympics last February. She was only 17 when she won a bronze medal in Salt Lake City and was a member of the Swedish team that shocked the U.S. in the semifinals in 2006 in Turin, Italy to win the silver.
It would be a conversation with a former opponent in Vancouver that would steer Rundqvist to Canada.
“I talked to Cassie Campbell and she told me about the (Canadian Women’s Hockey League),” Rundqvist said. “I had played for the same team, AIK, for the last 10 years and I needed a change. This was perfect. I wanted to play against the best players.”
The Stockholm native entered her name for the CWHL’s first draft and was selected 13th overall by the Burlington Barracudas.
“She’s big and strong and she can be pretty feisty,” said ’Cudas teammate Becky Kellar, who has faced Rudqvist in international play. “She goes to the net hard and I know I’ve found myself on the seat of my pants a few times because of her.”
“I’m the type of player you want to have on your team, but the team I play against probably hates me,” says the 5-foot-10 Rundqvist.
Rundqvist has provided the Barracudas with equal portions of goals and grit. She leads the team in both goals (seven) and penalty minutes (32). In the Barracudas’ last game against league-leading Montreal, she scored twice, including a goal with 46 seconds to play that sent the game to overtime, and set up another.
Rundqvist was happy to contribute in the game that Montreal eventually won 5-4 in a shootout (Rundqvist also scored Burlington’s lone goal in the shootout), but ultimately she says it comes down to team success.
“I’ve scored some goals and that’s been positive, but I would rather win as a team,” she said. “As a player, it’s tough to lose games. I’m not used to having a tough season like this.”
While Burlington has struggled, going 4-17-1, Rundqvist said she has developed as a player, as she hoped to do. She said other players from Sweden are followed her progress — Rundqvist is documenting her experience on her blog, danijelarundqvist.blogspot.com — in the CWHL and have inquired about coming to Canada. However, her own plans for next season remain undetermined.
“They ask me a lot of questions and I have to be honest. If you want to be an Olympic player, you have to treat it like a job,” said Rundqvist, who is unable to work in Canada. “I would love to stay here, but to do it, I have to earn some money. It costs me a lot of money so if I can’t get paid or get a sponsor, it’s difficult.”
The CWHL will have to help with sponsorships or visas to continue to attract international players, Rundqvist said. But she has no regrets about coming to Canada, saying she has received great support from “my Canadian family” — she lives with Ted and Fran Colley and their three sons — her teammates and the Barracudas organization.
“I kind of laughed when we drafted her,” Kellar said, recalling Rundqvist’s run-ins with her Canadian teammates. “But she’s helped us and she’s a great person. I hope she’s back next year.”
The Barracudas will play their final two home games this weekend, Saturday at 2 p.m. against Brampton and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against Toronto, both at Appleby Ice Centre.
Herb Garbutt – Burlington Post