Swedish Hockey 101

By Peter Westermark
If you know the basic facts regarding the structure of Swedish clubs – stop
reading now. If you don´t, you might learn something new.

Most teams started as non-profit organizations as a way to get people living
in the area interested and active in sports. The only thing one had to do to
become a member of the club was to pay a small fee to enter. The active
members elected a board that should run the club. This structure is still
common in Sweden, although the importance of money in hockey has grown. The
structure of most major clubs are similar to the structure of most
companies, although hockey is not a profit oriented business designed to
please an owner or a group of owners. Teams can not be sold or moved.

Some clubs are even introducing themselves at the stock exchange, turning
themselves into a profit-oriented business. The thinking behind the
metamorphosis is that teams have to have a sound economy if they want to be
successful in the Elitserien, although this sounds pretty ironic considering
the vast amount of Swedish clubs that are in debt.

One key source of revenue is local businesses as they supply sponsoring and
advertise on boards and jerseys. Teams whose Elitserien status can be
attributed to having a large company in the town include MoDo, who has even
assumed the name of the company, and Luleå, who is heavily sponsored by
SSAB(Swedish Steel).

There is no such thing as a draft in Sweden, not at any level. Youngsters
that start playing hockey can do that wherever they please and potentially
play for the same club from the age of seven all the way up to forty-seven.
Developing their own players is a strategy used by many clubs that doesn´t
have the financial resources that the big-city clubs have.

There have been calls to convert the Elitserien to a league that models
itself after the NHL, with no relegation and promotion and consisting of
profit-oriented clubs, but there is a strong opposition against these
suggestions. It seems that the only clubs that are interested in this are a
few clubs in the Elitserien, and they alone are not strong enough to win a
battle against all other clubs, the Swedish Hockey Association and the
Swedish hockey fans.