Len Catling (UBC Thunderbirds)
VANCOUVER - A black, Swedish beetle will replace the Thunderbird that was emblazoned on Rebecca Unrau's hockey jersey and she's fired up about it.
"I'm very excited," says the graduated UBC women's hockey star forward. "It's going to be a different culture for sure but I think it will be an amazing experience and a great opportunity."
Unrau is referring to her moving to Karlskrona, a 40,000-person city on the southern coast of Sweden, where she will embark on her pro hockey career.
When we last saw Unrau on the ice it was during UBC's storybook run to the CIS championship game. Next time she plays a competitive game it will be for Karlskrona HK, who play in the second division of the Swedish women's hockey league. Unrau signed a contract for the 2016-17 season with the club earlier this week.
These are exciting days for the Humboldt, Sask., native who has long dreamt of both travelling the world and playing professionally.
"To be honest it hasn't really set in," admits Unrau. "I think when I get on the plane and get over there it will start to set in. Right now I just really want to get back on the ice."
UBC head coach Graham Thomas believes Unrau, one of only two UBC players to score more than 100 career points in the 'Blue and Gold,' can be a dynamic force for the Swedish side.
"She can bring some Canadian toughness to the team," explains Thomas. "She is a tough, gritty player but also a sniper who can put some pucks in the back of the neck."
Thomas also believes what's good for Unrau, is good for CIS women's hockey overall.
"It showcases how much the game and the opportunities for CIS graduates has grown. It's really exciting for the women's game," he said. "It's growing a lot so there is just more and more of these opportunities for players who get a chance to travel and see the world."
Unrau will fly to Sweden in mid-August. She harbours no worries of becoming homesick or the cultural shift of playing in Sweden.
"I've talked to the team's head coach and he was very welcoming. So I think they are going to make it an awesome experience for me. It's a smaller town and lots of people in the town speak English so I think it will be a good situation in that aspect."
Unrau graduated this spring from UBC with a degree in kinesiology. Last year, she scored 12 goals and had 12 assists in 28 regular season games for the T-Birds.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds