Over the last four months former UBC Thunderbirds captain Christi Capozzi has been playing hockey in Sweden for theGöteborg Hockey Club (GHC). She was kind enough to share her experiences of getting the opportunity to play and live in Sweden.
Where are you playing?
I am playing for the Göteborg Hockey Club (GHC).
It is in Division 1 which is the second tier here. This year 2 teams from Division 1 get to move up to the Riksserienleague, which is the top league, that's why my team brought myself and two other North American players over.
What other teams do you play?
We play Hovås HC, Jönköping HV71, Karlskrona HK, Linköping HC 2 and the Lund Giants HC
Closest major city?
I am living in Göteborg, Sweden (Gothenburg in English). It is the second largest city in Sweden, which has been really fun. There is always lot of things to do. It's a vibrant city with a really good food scene. It is right on the coast with lots of islands around it, which makes it feel kind of like Vancouver.
How did you get hooked up with playing in Europe?
It was the University of Regina coach (Sarah Hodges) who was the connection. I was ready to hang up my competitive skates and get into the world of beer league when I got an email in May from her. She sent an email to Graham Thomassaying she had been asked by a contact in Sweden if she knew of any good defencemen who may be interested in playing in Sweden and asked if I would be interested.
How does the caliber compare to the CIS?
The caliber in our division, Division 1, is definitely lower than the CIS. The teams in our league are very mismatched skill wise. There is a big gap between the top two teams, my team and HV71, and the rest of the teams. There are however some very talented players on my team who could definitely play CIS or NCAA hockey.
Are there other North Americans playing in the league?
I have two other North Americans on my team, Tess Dusik from Winnipeg and Jessica Havel from Grand Rapids, Minnesota. A really close friend of mine Katie Kennedy, who used to play for the University of Regina is playing for HV71.
Do you keep in touch with your former UBC teammates and keep tabs on how the Thunderbirds are doing?
I've been keeping in touch as much as possible! It's hard with the time change (I'm 9 hours ahead) but I do text, snap chat and facetime with them a bit, which is nice. I follow how they're doing very closely too! It's fun when they have a 2 p.m. game that's streamed because that's 11 p.m. my time so it's not too hard to watch!
How have you adapted to life in a foreign country/culture?
I have definitely gotten comfortable living here. Sweden is very similar to Canada. The people are really nice and pretty much everyone speaks English, which makes it very easy for us foreigners to get around and do things on our own.
What is your favourite Swedish food?
I would have to say this special warm Christmas wine they have called Glogg. It's pretty dark and cold here so its nice to have a cup of that and warm up.
How are you dealing with less daylight hours?
It was super hard at first but I'm getting used to it by now. Europe does a really good job of lighting their buildings and there are pretty Christmas lights all over the city so it is actually really beautiful at night here or I guess in the afternoon since the sun sets at 3:30!
Have you had the opportunity to travel to other places in Europe?
So far just to Oslo, Norway. I drove up there with some friends to watch a concert. It was a really cool city except very expensive. We got a sandwich at a little coffee shop and the sandwich alone worked out to about $20 Canadian. We've been super busy with games every weekend but I am hoping to get to some other countries!
When does the season end? Will you return next year?
If you don't make playoffs the season ends at the end of January. I don't think I will be back next year unless I was to get a job in my field of work over here.
What is your career goal?
I am still working on figuring that out! At the moment I am pursuing a career in the business world and would ideally like to be working with the development, expansion and growth of a company that shares similar values as me (travel and sport).
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds