”Ice hockey makes soccer look slow”
”Ice hockey makes soccer look slow”

”Ice hockey makes soccer look slow”

Skellefteå AIK coach, Robert Ohlsson, talks to Paul Connolly about what makes ice hockey such an exciting sport and how soccer-loving newcomers to Skellefteå should swap their loyalties to hockey when they arrive. Photographs by Donna Richmond.

”Ice hockey makes soccer look slow” PC: What would you say to a Skellefteå newcomer who loves soccer but is interested in going to see some sport in the winter?

RO: Hockey is just so much fun. There’s so much going on during every split-second of play. It’s really high intensity and fast-moving. Soccer can be more of a chess game, with the ball being moved around slowly. But with hockey you just get non-stop action – it makes soccer look a bit slow. In hockey, in just a few seconds, there goes a player through on goal, then he’s hit by a defender; the coach gets up to shout at the referee, then an opposing player moves the puck down to the other end and scores. It’s relentless, and because the spectators are a bit closer to the action they really feel part of the game. It feels much more immediate. And, of course, there are usually many more goals in a hockey match than in soccer.

PC: The atmosphere is a little more theatrical at a hockey match, too, although in a good way.

RO: Yes, the crowd is closer to the rink and is almost part of the action. But it’s a much less intimidating atmosphere at a hockey match than at a soccer game. The arena can be very noisy and there’s a lot of singing and drumming but it’s not a threatening place to be at all, because there’s a higher number of females and younger people who attend games. That makes hockey games much more friendly experiences. Even if we play Luleå, who are our Norrland rivals, it’s still relatively calm in the stands. There’s a lot of noise, of course, but no fighting between fans.

PC: Like the best soccer clubs, AIK have a very identifiable way of playing – how would you describe it?

RO: AIK play a high-speed puck possession game. We always like to have the puck. Maybe a little like the Pep Guardiola style in soccer. We like to control the puck, to always have the puck, with a fast skating, good passing game. And the great thing is that all levels of the club, from the youngsters to the first team, play this way. So when youngsters come into the first team, they already know how to play. They’ve had this philosophy for around 15 years and it clearly works.

PC: Yes, it does, seeing that in the last 15 seasons, AIK have qualified for the play-offs 14 times! Guardiola says that if you have the ball, the other team can’t score, and AIK’s goaltender, Linus Söderström, recently broke the SHL record for clean sheets, so the puck possession philosophy is clearly working. But you had a shaky start to the season, with quite a few losses, before shooting up the table and going on a record-equalling 16-game winning streak. What changed?

We had quite a few new players and it took a while for things to gel. But we got it together and became much better very quickly. There’s a great team spirit.

PC: You joined AIK as head coach in May 2021. You’ve been an ice hockey coach for 16 years and you’ve spent a lot of that time coaching in Stockholm and Gothenburg. What are the main differences between the big cities and a smaller city such as Skellefteå?

RO: The tempo here is slower. Not so much rushing about. And the lack of bad traffic jams is great. Everything takes around seven minutes to get to. My daughter is nine and when she wants to go swimming, the pool is seven minutes away and when you want to go horse riding it’s seven minutes away. If I want to walk to the rink it’s seven minutes. Everything is so close. And I have to say the nature here is so amazing. It’s great to go just outside your house and be able to ski and walk. I would urge all newcomers to Skellefteå to explore nature here. And I really like the fact that Skellefteå identifies so strongly with its hockey team.

”Ice hockey makes soccer look slow” PC: It’s the heart and soul of Skellefteå. If you want to understand the city and fit in, then you need to understand ice hockey a little bit.

RO: Yeah, absolutely. Just bring your love for soccer, and transfer it to AIK. You go to the games, and then you have a whole set of new friends!


See ticket offers on page 15


Behind the scenes – when Norrland Living met Robert Ohlsson.

To read ‘The beginner’s guide to ice hockey’, click here 


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