Q & A with Brynäs IF’s Sonja van der Bliek

The longtime CWHL goaltender is ready for a new adventure in Sweden.

What went into your decision to leave the CWHL for the SDHL?

I’ve always wanted to experience playing overseas as part of my hockey career, and Sweden has one of the best leagues. I love Toronto and my team here but I’m excited to shake things up and take on a new challenge.

How different was the CWHL this year compared to previous years?

The CWHL is always different in Olympic years - I’ve been through it twice  and there’s definitely a drop off in terms of talent level. On the other hand, it gives different girls the opportunity to step into larger and more impactful roles on their teams. This was also our first season getting paid, which was a big step and I’m excited to see the continued growth of the league, and eventually the ability to offer a livable wage to play women’s pro hockey.

What sparked your interest in the SDHL?

I’ve known plenty of girls who have gone to play in the SDHL and had good things to say about it - the hockey world is a small one. I think it’s a different style of play than in North America, so I’m excited for something new. I’m of European descent and most of my family lives in Norway and Holland, so I’m hoping we can meet up and maybe they can even make it out to a few games.

Brynäs has had something of a tumultuous offseason, with star players leaving  and being vocal about how the club treated the women’s team. Is that a concern for you at all?

From what I’ve grasped, they are trying to rebuild the program and I’m excited to be a part of it. I obviously have big shoes to fill with Sara Grahn leaving, but I’m ready to get to work. As for the negative press around the treatment of the women’s team, I am hoping that moving forward there will be a positive change stemming from this, and I’ll be doing my best to promote that and hopefully be a leader within the club.

How vocal are you on the ice? Are you worried at all about a language barrier with your new defense corps?

I’m definitely pretty vocal, but I’m sure we will figure it out pretty quickly with a couple of key words/phrases. Hockey is an international language :)

What are you most looking forward to about playing in Sweden?

I’m looking forward to meeting the team and learning more about the Swedish culture. I’ll hopefully get some traveling in while I’m there, but mostly just excited to play some European hockey.

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