Luleå HF captain and former Damkronorna defender Emma Eliasson announced her retirement from ice hockey on Wednesday.
The news was met with consternation and sadness throughout the Swedish hockey world. Eliasson, 27, is widely considered to be among the finest defenders to ever play for Sweden, a sentiment echoed by her Luleå HF coach Fredrik Glader:
"That's a really sad day for Swedish hockey and Luleå Hockey," Glader told The Ice Garden Wednesday morning. "The best [defender] ever in Swedish women's hockey [has ended] her career."
Eliasson represented Sweden at three Olympic Games and was a member of the 2006 team that won silver in Turin. In seven World Championship appearances she took home two bronze medals in 2005 and 2007 and was named a Top-Three Player on her team in 2008 and 2016.
At the SDHL (formerly known as Riksserien) level she ends her career with 264 points in 248 regular-season games, a Riksserien Championship with Luleå HF in 2016, multiple scoring titles, and the 2016 Best Player award from the league following a commanding performance in both the regular season and the playoffs.
Furor erupted last summer when Eliasson, fresh off Luleå's victory and her awards for Best Player and Best Defender, was removed from Team Sweden by coach Leif Boork following a long-standing conflict between them. During his tenure with the team Boork has become known not for bringing success or growth - the 2016-2017 season produced the worst Team Sweden record in 14 years - but for his feuds with players.
Among those players? Former Damkronorna captain and current HV71 captain Jenni Asserholt, who left Team Sweden last summer due to conflicts with Boork, and Brynäs defender Lina Bäcklin, who missed the 2016 World Championship due to personal reasons and has since been removed from the national team with no explanation or communication from Boork.
Eliasson cited her exile from the national team and the feud with Boork as factors in her decision:
"I love hockey and I will miss every second, but since I won't be included in the trip towards and to the Olympics, it's time for me to call it quits," she told SVT Sports on Wednesday.
In addition, she also cited the physical and mental strain so often experienced by women working to earn a living while staying at the pinnacle of their sport.
"What has been a little tough is that you do not really have time to recover as you want. I've had a 200 percent employment with studies and work on the side for several years now," she told Sportbladet, where she reiterated that a place on the 2018 Olympic team might very well have altered her decision: "Had I had the opportunity to compete [in the Olympics], I would have done it."