International Ice Hockey Federation

Claesson the Gladiator

Claesson the Gladiator

Winning TV show with hockey speed and strength

Published 28.11.2016 08:28 GMT-5 | Author Chris Jurewicz
Claesson the Gladiator
Michelle Claesson battles at the Swedish Gladiator TV show. Photo: Sara Arnestal
The term gladiator is used to describe many hockey players. Sweden’s women’s national team, though, may have the only legitimate Gladiator.

Her name is Michelle Claesson. She’s a 25-year-old forward and, in June 2015, Claesson won Sweden’s Gladiatorerna television show. The program is similar to the famous American Gladiators series, which sees some of the world’s fittest individuals compete against one another on obstacle courses that feature climbing, running, and battling events.

Claesson, a 177-cm (5-foot-10), 70-kg (154-pound) athlete who usually plays for HV71 Jonkoping in Sweden’s top women’s hockey league Riksserien, defeated all other competitors to take home the top prize of 250,000 Swedish kronor (€25,500).

“It was awesome to win,” says Claesson. “We won some money and it’s really nice. I’m studying so I’m saving the money for school.”

Claesson says the Gladiator win shows she has the complete package: strength and speed. And that’s something she says she gained through the game of hockey.

Claesson is a bit of a late bloomer. In August she was one of 26 players on the Swedish women’s national team roster that travelled to Calgary, Canada to take part in a training camp with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team. Sweden played exhibition games against Canada’s development teams, along with another team made up of university players.

It was Claesson’s first camp as a national team member after head coach Leif Boork called her to replace one of Sweden’s injured players.

“She hasn’t played the U18s, she hasn’t been at any camp whatsoever in the history, so she’s really new,” says Boork. “When I was scouting the teams and the players, I liked her attitude, I liked her work ethic. She’s very well physically trained, she has good character, she has many of those basic fundamentals as a person and as a player which I’m looking for, for the third and fourth line. I wanted to see her at this level and against those types of players.”

Sweden started the week with a 2-1 overtime win over the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) selection and then had two setbacks – losing 4-3 in OT to Team Canada White and 5-1 to Team Canada Red – before concluding the week with a 3-2 shootout victory over CIS.

“It was really fun and interesting to be there with other girls and play against the Canadian teams,” says Claesson, who describes her game as one of speed, saying she loves chasing loose pucks and generating scoring chances. “It’s such high speed and the hockey is so good. It’s really fun to have this experience.”

Boork says the camp will do wonders for Sweden’s national team program. The Swedes were once perennial medal contenders at the Olympics and the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship but haven’t placed in the top three at that event since 2007.

He adds that seeing the top teams around the world more often will help Sweden get back to the podium.

“It’s important just to adjust to this culture of play,” says Boork. “We meet Finland a lot, we meet some of the European teams a lot. We know how they play and they know how we play so we know each other very well. It’s not only tactically. It’s how the individuals act on the ice and that is the same in men’s hockey. If you see a Russian team, they come from a different culture, if you have a Czech team it’s another culture, and there is definitely a North American style. I want the players to get used to their individual opponents act so they can adjust to that and they’re not surprised when they meet the best once a year.”

Hockey Canada, meanwhile, used the National Women’s Development Team camp to whittle down a 42-player roster to 23 players for a three-game series against the United States to help evaluate players on the road to the 2017 Nations Cup in Germany in January as well as potential invites and events with Canada’s National Women’s Team.


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