Knutsen`s Success: Will it Bring More Norwegians to the NHL?

By Evan Andriopoulos
As Espen Knutsen`s toils with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks seem to fade away they are still in the picture of the Norwegian sports scene. After Knutsen`s orignal drafting by the Hartford Whalers and then his subsequent demotion as a member of the Mighty Ducks… still the Norwegian Media and young players flocked to the sport of hockey. After his failure and countrymate Anders Myrvold`s return to Swedish Hockey after a failed Bruins effort the sport lost great deals of interest. Coupled with the loss of Norwegian “Stars” to the Swedish Leagues and other European Leagues the fans started to turn their back on the sport. If not for the occassion “bad news” of the Norwegian League or another loss at various international tourneys…the youth avoided the sport and sponsorship money began to fade.

Hopes that Espen Knutsen`s solid play this time around and countrymates Anders Myrvold(Islanders)return to the NHL and the drafting of Tore Vikingstad(Blues)would have bouyed the interest…. but to date the only additional notes are the media`s additional coverage, covering Espen`s daily toils, the fans have been more skeptical perhaps due to the fact that Knutsen`s last voyage failed so miserably.

However in the pipeline players like Vikingstad and Patrick Thoresen, Christian Thygesen and Lasse Fredriksen lead the way…

The problem seems to lie within the organizations. The teams are loading up with lesser Swedish players and stunting the growth of Norwegian players. Former NHLer Serge Boisvert has been a champion of the cause the raise the level of talent of Norwegian players by playing the junior players on his Elite team. However it is said that good players get better with better players around them…as it is… there are few super talents and few talents in the league from Norway thus to raise the bar foreigners must be brought in…but better ones. Kyle McDonough(USA) plays for Boisvert`s team(Frisk-Asker) and is the leading scorer in the league as a 35 year old. McDonough small and stocky was a star in college with UVM but was overlooked by the NHL probably due to his size. McDonough is as good today as he ever was and is probably one of the top players in all of Europe. However…many Swedish run of the mill players dominate rosters and are contributing little to the cause while other Norwegian players are sent to lesser clubs and to Swedish teams to hone their skills. The talent void is then filled with left overs etc… This plan is not good enough for Norway to succeed. However there is another issue…other than a few teams (VIF, Storhamar and now Frisk) there is little paid ticket support which means little sponsorship money…making it more difficult to keep talented players in Norway. The current federation is examining the options on what to do…one hope is “if the Norway wins the qualifying tourney in February and advances to the olympics a shot in the arm can be expected” however if this equation fails… the trend will continue.

There are talented players in Norway and it will take a little jolt to make the sport more popular and the fans more trusting. Espen Knutsen and Anders Myrvold are definitely helping but more help is needed.