USA hosts Bandy World Championship
American women’s bandy team shares their passion for the hockey-like winter sport
Norwegian American Weekly
The top women’s bandy teams from around the world gathered at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval for the Women’s Bandy World Championship, held February 18 to 21 in Roseville, Minn. The American hosts welcomed Norway, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and, for the first time, China to the tournament.
Never heard of bandy? The sport can be described as a cross between hockey and soccer; it is played by a team of 11 players with bowed sticks and a small, round ball on an ice field about the same size as a soccer pitch.
While bandy is yet to become well known in the U.S.—outside of Minnesota, anyway—it is popular worldwide.
The American team is made up of women with backgrounds in elite-level hockey who were encouraged to give the sport a try by other hockey or bandy players and quickly found it to be an enjoyable way to continue competing on the ice.
“The team is a great group of women both on and off the ice. Very encouraging to one another and have joined to be a type of ‘family’ as many sports teams become,” said fullback Jaclyn Daggit.
To learn more about the sport and its presence in the U.S., I interviewed midfielder Kelly McGinty, who played collegiate hockey at Cornell University and currently works as a litigation associate for Moss & Barnett in Minneapolis.
Molly Jones: How did you get involved in bandy?
Kelly McGinty: Three friends from my women’s hockey team played bandy before me, and they convinced me to try out for the team. It took them over a year to convince me, and I was finally swayed when I heard that I could burn up to 800 calories per game. At the time, I was in my last year of law school, and anything active was great for my sanity.
MJ: Can you describe a little bit about your team? What are your goals for the World Championship?
KM: The Women’s National Team is the only all-women’s bandy team in the American Bandy Association (ABA). We play exclusively against other men’s teams.
Our goal for the upcoming Women’s World Championship is to earn a medal. The teams we play against are extremely skilled and have been playing bandy from a young age. For instance, in the Scandinavian countries, it is rare for a young girl to grow up playing hockey and bandy. Because the two sports are both played in the winter, girls typically chose one or the other. Consequently, the players that we face on these teams have been playing bandy as long as we have been playing hockey, and they are able to do so against other women’s teams.
MJ: You recently submitted an application to the United States Olympic Committee to attain official recognition of bandy. How likely do you think it is that the sport will become a part of future Olympic Games?
KM: I truly believe that it is only a matter of time before bandy becomes a winter Olympic sport. The International Olympic Committee has already recognized our international governing board—the Federation of International Bandy, and numerous countries around the world have recognized bandy as a sport. Support from the USOC is vital for a bid to include bandy in the Winter Olympics, and we hope to achieve this milestone within the next six months.
McGinty also shared with me that many athletes on Team USA have Norwegian heritage and enjoy the opportunities to interact with Scandinavians through bandy.
“It has been great to learn about the Scandinavian influence on bandy and share that with my family,” said sweeper Briana Carlson, whose grandmother hails from Asker, Norway. “I’ve also spent some time at both of our last World Championships with players from the Norwegian National team, and I find them to be very fun, nice, positive people. Our team agrees with this sentiment, and we found ourselves rooting for Norway in a number of games they were playing (assuming they weren’t playing Team USA of course).”
In addition, Norwegian exchange student Linnea Nordstad Grönquist skated with the USA women’s team this season. The Norwegian had wanted to participate in an exchange but didn’t want to take a year off of bandy. When she learned that the sport is also played in Minneapolis, she decided to organize a private foreign exchange with a host family through bandy.
When I asked how the sport varies between Norway and the U.S., she responded: “This is a fun question because it is like two different sports. The U.S. team has a great influence from hockey. But they play more intensively. Back in Norway we take our time with the ball and often pass back and do more drops.
“I love that the team is interested in learning how I’m used to playing. They are always listening and really taking it all in whether I’m explaining or the coach,” she added.
Nordstad Grönquist had been selected as a reserve player for the Norwegian team and was chosen to play in their final game, when Norway defeated Canada 3-2 to take the bronze.
“Playing with the Norwegian National team has been a goal of mine ever since I started playing. When my coach told me that I would be playing, I was so excited. And after playing and working hard, actually getting a medal was like a dream come true. I mean, who doesn’t want a world cup medal to show to people? The happiness in the locker room after the game was insane. Everyone was singing in Norwegian and it was pure joy. In one word: It was awesome!” she said about the experience.
In the finals, Sweden took the gold after a 1-0 win over second-place Russia.
USA beat Finland 3-1 in their final game to take fifth place. The team is already looking forward to the opportunity to win a medal in the next World Championships, which will be held in China in 2018.
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.