Last weekend, Daughter had another bandy game. Bandy, if you don’t know, is like field hockey on ice, and Daughter, if you don’t know, rocks the sport. She’s a great skater, and more importantly, she’s got the gene that I don’t have, which is the one that makes her want to practice every time she gets a chance.
The games last Saturday were especially exciting because they were her first games indoors.
Anyway, a character trait we do share is curiosity so after her two games I noticed that she stayed on the ice when her teammates had already taken off, and this time, she didn’t stay to practice skating. Instead, she was standing with her coach and the opposing team’s coach, looking up, and obviously listening intently.
Then she skated to me as fast as she could, stopped at the edge of the ice, and told me: “Can I go play for AIK tomorrow, it’s gonna be just girls and it’s AIK, and there’s two games tomorrow, and she said that AIK has black sweaters, too!”
“Oh, and, it’s AIK!,” she added.
What AIK is in Stockholm and Sweden, HIFK is in Helsinki and Finland. One of the big clubs in the big city, one that has won titles and one that carries a chip on its shoulder. When I was a little older than Daughter now, I wanted nothing more than to play for HIFK.
The men’s team had just won the Finnish hockey championship – and I knew not just one, but two players on the team – and their junior teams had always attracted the best players in each age group. One of my friends, a slightly older kid who lived across the street from us, played for IFK, which automatically made him the captain of the shinny teams at the local rink. Not that he was the best player, but he was an IFK player.
I had schoolmates who also played for IFK, and we played against them all the time, and that particular year, my team finished ahead of them in the standings, which was nice, but regardless of the standings, we all knew one thing: They were IFK and we were not.
That was the year we moved to Joensuu and left Helsinki, and its IFK. While one of my favorite players from IFK also moved to Joensuu and I got to watch him play for my new hometown team, my dream of playing for IFK now seemed unattainable.
Except for one thing. Our move was still two months away, and while the official season had ended, the teams still played friendly games, and invited players on tryouts for the following season. One day, Dad told me that a couple of my friends and I were invited to play for, yes, IFK.
It was big day. That afternoon, I rushed home from school, made myself a couple of sandwiches, and waited for my friend and his father to pick me up. The game was at five thirty, so they’d have to pick me up at four, too early for Dad to make it there from his work.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel good. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe the idea of actually wearing the red IFK sweater was too much, or maybe I was sick, but I fell asleep on the baby blue covers of my parent’s bed.
I woke up when Mom got home from work, surprised to see me at home. My friend had been at our house to pick me up at four. They had rung the doorbell, they had banged on the door, they had even yelled through the mailbox, but to no avail.
I slept through all that, and most of the game.
Both my friends played for IFK both the following season and all the way to their men’s Finnish league team. I didn’t.
Of course Daughter would get to play for AIK. Just like Mom and Dad had driven across town on several Saturdays while I just changed my sweater and socks in the backseat, so the socks would match the color of the other sweater, because I happened to play for two different teams that year, I got up on a Sunday morning to drive Daughter across town so she could play for two teams in two days.
“I wonder my my friend will say at school when he hears that I’ve played bandy for AIK. He’s a huge fan, and he plays soccer with AIK,” Daughter said on our way to the game.
“And AIK, they have a team mascot and everything,” she added.
When I first moved to Sweden, and was trying to figure out which of the three clubs I’d support, I decided against AIK pretty quickly. They were too rough, their fans too scary, and their attitude too much for me.
I didn’t tell Daughter that. Instead, I watched her pull on the black sweater number nine with the AIK logo on the front, and walk out onto the ice with her new teammates. In her second game, she got the ball about 30 meters from the goal, skated around a defender, cut to the middle and shot the ball into the net.
Without a word, I raised my hands up in the air.
Daughter had scored for AIK.