Norwegian forward Line Bialik during the game against the Czech Republic. Photo: Manuel Lopez / PPR
Norway’s Line Bialik remains confident
The Czechs and Swiss started the Final Olympic Qualification Group C with big wins but Line Bialik and her Norwegian teammates want to stay in the race.
“We are not out of this tournament yet, we can come back. We’re going to win this thing. It’s hard but we can do it because all the teams can win here,” says Norwegian forward Line Bialik. “We are not finished yet. We will see on Sunday.”
While fans in Arosa may expect a “final” between host Switzerland and the Czech Republic after their five-goal wins against Denmark and Norway respectively, Bialik remains confident about her team’s chances to make it to PyeongChang 2018.
Bialik started to play hockey in Oslo when she was five or six years old. “I liked it so I started playing early with boys because there weren’t many girls’ teams so I kept going with the boys and moved to the girls later. I moved to Sweden when I was 18 after school and have stayed there,” the 30-year-old says.
She has followed a pattern many of the top female (and male) Norwegian hockey players did by going east. Now she’s in her ninth season in the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL and she’s been doing well. In her highest-scoring season in 2010/2011 she had 30 goals and 29 assists in 26 games with Segeltorps IF and won four championships with three different teams.
In the meantime she has moved within the Stockholm region to play for AIK. With 17 goals and 22 assists in 33 games she leads her team in scoring and is sixth overall. It’s not bad numbers for a lady who came from a Division I country in women’s hockey and she’s not the only top-10 scorer from smaller women’s hockey countries with Austrian Denise Altmann ranked third and Latvian Iveta Koka tenth.
“The Swedish league has become much better. It’s an international league now because players come from all the countries, Canada, U.S., Finland. It’s a good league, I love to play in it. We have 10 players in the Swedish league now, it’s a short way from home,” she says about the regular movement between the two Scandinavian countries.
In Sweden she has a 75 per-cent job as a physiotherapist. The time she spends with her team is quite different to other European leagues as she goes to training every day.
“We are on the ice six times a week and have two to three games each week so it’s quite a lot,” she says.
Playing at that level helps develop the Norwegian players but the national team hasn’t made it back to the top division since being relegated in 1997.
Although Bialik scores regularly in the Swedish league, scoring was a big issue in the game against the Czechs.
“It’s hard to win a hockey game without scoring a goal. In the Swedish league I play with good players as I do here too but in my team in Sweden we practise together every day and with the national team we don’t have many camps so it’s harder to get the feeling for each other,” she says.
On Saturday afternoon she hopes Norway will be able to bounce back against host Switzerland to keep chances alive to qualify for the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament for the first time ever.
“They are a well scoring team but the defence is maybe not as strong as the Czech defence so I hope we can score some goals there,” she says.