How Swede it is! A Swede’s Perspective of Swedish Heritage Night

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Greeting Caps fans! My name is Sofie Bengtsson, I was born and raised in the southern part of Sweden in a town called Ängelholm. My hometown is only 20 minutes from where Marcus Johansson lived in Landskrona and about 1 hour from Andre Burakovsky’s hometown of Malmö.

essay I have always loved ice hockey. I grew up in the rink, as my brother played when he was young. I was rink side for a lot of games and have always enjoyed to spend my time watching hockey. My Dad has always been a huge fan of our local team, Rögle BK, so perhaps it was his passion for hockey that initially drew me to the game. I purchased my first set of season tickets as a 15-year-old and I went to all the home games. It was that year, when I was only 15 when I realized how much I loved ice hockey. In addition to Rögle BK, I have also consistently followed the Swedish national team in every tournament they have competed in.

I decided to move to the USA in August, 2014 to work as an Au pair. I wasn’t a fan of any particular team in the NHL before I moved here. I always thought it was unnecessary because I lived so far away and I was very loyal to my favorite Swedish team! However, after living in Northern Virginia for a while I realized that I wanted to start watching hockey again. So I decided that my adopted “home town” team was going to be the Washington Capitals. Since then, it’s all about the NHL and the Caps! And I’m so happy call myself a fan of the Caps and to take part in this organization – as well as getting to know so many of the amazing Washington Capital’s fans.

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This is the arena my local team plays in. I took this picture this past winter when I was home visiting my family for Christmas. They are playing in the highest league in Sweden, it’s called SHL – Swedish Hockey League.

Being with my family and attending a game with them was very special for me. It was nice to spend a night with a little bit of Swedish spirit after being away from home for over 1.5 years.

And then I started to hear about various heritage nights that he Capitals organization was organizing. I watched some of the promotional videos from Monumental Sports Network about the preparations for the Swedish Heritage Night. I saw all of the Swedish food, and to see and hear Backstrom talk about growing up in Sweden and everything else! It made me miss home a little bit more than usual. However, it also made me realize how proud I am to be a citizen of Sweden and how much I love my home country. To see the Washington Capitals organize a game night to honor Swedish Heritage made me love this team and organization even more.

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Screenshot from Washington Capitals Twitter. The three Swedes that are playing for Caps.

I couldn’t have been any more fortunate than to have my dad and brother with me at the Verizon center to celebrate Swedish Heritage Night as the Capitals played against the Blue Jackets. It was my brothers first time in the states and his first NHL game – it was an amazing night that I will treasure forever.

I have lived in Northern Virginia for over 1.5 years and this was the first time my brother came over to visit me. I knew that I had to take both my Dad and my brother to a Capitals game at Verizon Center. That was the first thing I told them and they both agreed without hesitation. They knew that they didn’t have a choice anyways, to be honest. I have always been the most stubborn in our family. I talked about watching a Caps game with them even before they booked their airfare. As soon as they confirmed their trip, I bought the game tickets!

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Photo: @washingtoncaps

At first, I was a little bit worried that they would be disappointed that we were going to watch the one and only game with a Swedish theme. I would understand why, as they came all the way from Sweden to watch a NHL game and went to the only one with a Swedish theme. But they surprised me, they were super excited to see how the Capitals were going to celebrate this special night. They wanted to see if everything really is bigger and better when it comes to sporting events here in the USA. (That is a thing we have always said in Sweden “everything is bigger in America”.)

Monday, March 28th finally came and we spent the whole day in Georgetown, walking around, browsing in the stores and strolling along the Potomac river. We stopped by a restaurant/bar and hung out there for a couple of hours. We headed down by the river and I showed them where the Embassy of Sweden is. We all agreed on that the building itself looked typical Swedish.

An Uber later and we were back at our hotel in DC. We were only a 10-15 minute walk from the Verizon Center and we decided to head that way a bit earlier so we could enjoy some dinner before the game. We ended up at the Greene Turtle along with what felt like a million other Caps fans. A great burger later and my brother and dad entered Verizon Center for the first time in their lives. We walked straight to the team store and my brother bought a hat for a friend back home.

What did I think about the game? Not the greatest but with a great third period, a 4-1 win and that we clinched the Presidents’ Trophy made it a pretty good night, anyways. My fellow Swedes (brother and Dad) thought the game was a bit slow, especially the two first periods and that the Caps didn’t play with details. Which I can agree on. I’m happy that Caps decided to play some good hockey in the third period so that my brother and Dad could see what this team is capable of.

My dad and brother said that the whole culture is different. It’s almost like watching different a completely different sporting event. Every team in Sweden has a group of people who sing throughout the whole game with different songs. The only thing that we have here is ” Let’s Go Caps” and then we “unleash the fury”. I can say that I know at least 8 songs from my favorite Swedish hockey team. Another thing is that most people here own a team jersey, it’s not as common in Sweden to own and wear a team jersey.

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This is another picture from Christmas 2015 when I was home in Sweden. It’s my dad, me and my brother cheering for our local team, Rögler BK.

When it comes to the Swedish Heritage Night. This was so much fun. I had my Swedish flag with me and I wore my Backstrom jersey. My brother brought a Swedish national team jersey that he wore. We were in the Swedish mood right from the start! We were all gladly surprised with how many Swedes and Swedish flags we saw inside the arena. It was great to see and it brought up the spirit even more. But there is one thing I have to tell you about Swedes. Most of us (I can’t say all of us) are really antisocial. Which means that even though we met another Swede while walking around the arena we never stopped to talk or even say hi. That’s a Swedish thing, you stick to yourself. I compared this with the time I went to MSG to watch Caps-Rangers last year. Every time I met another Caps fan they always cheered and gave me a high-five. That would almost never happen between Swedes. And I have to say that I like the more social personalities so much better. I’m tired of being this boring Swede that sticks to myself.

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We also went to the Swedish table in the 400th section. We talked for a little bit and they gave me two different books and a Caps t-shirt. They were really nice and we saw it as a very positive that they had planned to meet and talk to those who were celebrating Swedish Heritage Night! They also told me that more people than expected came to talk to them. It was really unlucky that we missed the video they showed in the second intermission because we were talking to the Swedes at the 400th section. But an American friend of mine texted me right when it was over and wrote “That was the best thing ever”. I have watched all the videos from Monumental Sports Network and I think that I have seen everything. It seems that many people loved the episode about Swedish food. Here’s the video: https://www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com/videos/swedish-heritage-night-food-tasting

I think the Washington Capitals did a great job with the Swedish Heritage Night. There were people to talk to about it, they had a lot of videos to watch before the game to learn more about Sweden and what it’s like to live there. It was a great overall experience and I was not alone in feeling that way. A big plus was that Nicky (we call him Bäckis in Sweden) scored one and had one assist. That was a perfect conclusion to Swedish Heritage Night!

By Sofie Bengsston

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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