No regrets
A three-year Swedish sojourn has changed the way Jennifer Wakefield looks at hockey and life
Jason La Rose
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October 27, 2017
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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 began.

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 second-guessing.

“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 is right.

“We’ll see which way the wind takes me, whether it’s back to Europe or in North America.”

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-669-1261 (mobile)
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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