It was supposed to be a quick side trip on the way home from Sochi, a
chance for Jennifer Wakefield to spend a month or two unwinding from the
Olympic grind and experience hockey in a new country.
That was three-and-a-half years ago.
Wakefield has found a home in Sweden, becoming a vital member of Linköping
HC in the Riksserien, the highest level of women’s hockey in the country,
and loving life in Scandinavia.
“A really good offer came up to play in northern Sweden right after the
Olympics [in Sochi], and instead of going home and joining my CWHL team, or
taking the year off, why not tour Europe,” she says. “It was a great chance
to get over there for a month, and I’ve loved it so much that I never
really came back.
“I always kind of took it one year at a time; we used every year as a
marker in my development to see if it was worth me going back or if [Hockey
Canada] wanted me to play at home, but they were happy. I was having a lot
of fun and meeting a lot of cool people, so I decided to keep going back.”
The Pickering, Ont., native started her Swedish adventure with Piteå HC of
the women’s third division before signing on with IK Guts, a fifth-division
men’s team, and Linköping in 2014-15.
She moved to Borås HC, in the men’s third division, to begin the 2015-16
season before committing full-time to Linköping shortly after the campaign
Wakefield has found plenty of success with Linköping, both individual and
team. After winning the Riksserien championship in 2015, leading the league
in playoff scoring, she racked up an impressive 55 points in just 18 games
in 2015-16, getting Linköping back to the Riksserien final, and led the way
with 34 goals last season. In all, she has posted 90 goals and 130 points
in 63 regular-season games.
So it’s not a surprise to know there hasn’t been a whole lot of
“I don’t regret my decision at all [to play in Sweden]. I was looking for
something kind of different and unique, and I think that is the best thing
Sweden has brought; I was able to continue to play at a high level, and I
learned so many more things than just as a hockey player.”
That is perhaps the most important part of the experience for the
28-year-old – a chance to step outside of her comfort zone, and see and do
things that most can only dream of.
Living and playing in Sweden has been a way for Wakefield to test her
independence, and get away from the here’s-what-you’re-doing-today
schedules that ruled her life ahead of the Sochi Games.
“I was on a schedule being in university, and then going through Vancouver
centralization, and then back to university, and then into Sochi
centralization,” she says. “I didn’t have that regiment the year I came off
the Olympics, so I had more free time to do what I want and explore
different countries and be more independent.”
Whether it is a weekend trip to Oslo to go skiing, a Christmas market in
Germany, coaching in a hockey tournament in Italy, or vacations across
Europe that got her “deeper into the culture than just the tourist stuff,”
Wakefield has made her stay in Sweden as much a cultural experience as it
has been an athletic one.
“It has opened the doors to the way different cultures do day-to-day
living, and just what the norms are,” she says. “I’m lucky to be around
people from so many different countries, and it’s pretty cool to see what
their perspective of life is. It’s interesting to see how they perceive
things, compared to how North Americans do.”
So … what’s next?
Just as she has done for the last three years, Wakefield isn’t looking too
far ahead; she has her focus on PyeongChang and a second Olympic gold
medal, and she’ll worry about the 2018-19 season, and beyond, when the time
“We’ll see which way the wind takes me, whether it’s back to Europe or in