Norwegian forward Andrea Dalen (right) battles for the puck with Kazakh forward Tatyana Koroleva. Photo: Brian McHattie
Q&A with Norway's free-scoring Andrea Dalen
She picked up the game as a three-year-old and now at the age of 24, Andrea Dalen's hockey odyssey has so far taken her to both sides of the Atlantic.
With a record-breaking season in Sweden's top league in fresh memory, she now sets her sights further east to PyeongChang 2018 to try and fulfil a life-long ambition to represent Norway at the Winter Olympics.
IIHF.com had a chat with her during the Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round where Norway succeeded on home ice in Stavanger.
Norway's women's hockey team has yet to qualify for the Winter Olympics. You were part of the team playing at the Final Olympic Qualification for Sochi 2014. Played in Poprad, Slovakia in February 2013, Norway then finished third out of four teams. Do you think Norway is better equipped to achieve Olympic glory this time around?
The Olympic Qualification has been a bit up and down for us. During pre-qualification tournaments in the past, things have been going well, but then come the final round we have had mixed results. We haven't ever really achieved what we wanted at those qualifications, so this is the time to start making better performances as it is great to be part of this and very special to be representing your country.
Half of the players on Norway's Olympic Qualification roster play their club hockey abroad. Is it a requirement to leave Norway in order to become a better player?
Yes and no. Norwegian hockey is on the up and we have a lot of young players picking up the game, but it takes time. Our women's league in Norway doesn't have that many teams, so at this moment it's an advantage if the players do go abroad where there is also more support for women's hockey than it perhaps is in Norway. In Sweden for instance they have been very good with the support from both their federation and big clubs towards women's hockey. The development is however going forward in Norway, but it's with small steps and a process that will take many years.
Leaving Norway you first arrived at Linkoping in Sweden as a 17-year-old in 2009 before two years later taking a leap westwards to the United States and North Dakota. How do you look back at your four years spent in North American college hockey between 2011-15?
It was fun and I've learned a lot. Hockey-wise it was a bit up and down. There were spells where I wasn't getting much game time and then there were spells when I was playing lots. Overall it was a great experience and I grew a lot during those years. It's great to work hard for something and get your reward for it in the end and I became of the leader players during my final year there. Outside of hockey, I also got my Bachelor in Business Economics while I was over there. Getting an education is an important part of women's hockey, as I don't make much money from my sport and play it mostly because it is fun.
Ahead of the 2014/15 season you returned to Sweden suiting up for Djurgarden Stockholm. After four years away from the Swedish top division, did you notice many changes upon your return?
There has been a big development. More foreign players have been coming in, the pace is much faster and the teams are on a more equal footing. During my first spell in Sweden, there were two strong lines and then there was a big drop to the third and fourth line, but since I have returned I see the gap is closing down between the lines.
During your debut season at Djurgarden you broke the scoring record in Sweden's top division with 47 goals in 36 matches. Will you be looking to improve those numbers in the near future?
This year I have been hampered by injuries and not yet been up to my full capacity. My team Djurgarden has also suffered from a lot of injuries, but I am expecting to have a better season than last year and I am hoping that we will get going again to full speed after Christmas.
Do you feel you have a different role in the team when wearing the jersey of Norway compared to your club team?
I am one of the more experienced among a very young group of players in our national team, so I have a more leading role both on and off ice for Norway. We are also not meeting up too often and playing many games with the national team. When I play for Djurgarden, which is far more regularly, I always do my best to try and be a good role model.
At the age of 24, what goals have you set for yourself and your hockey career?
My big dream is to make it to the Olympics with Norway. After that it is to win a Swedish championship with Djurgarden. I will continue to take each year as it comes and as long as it is fun to play I will continue.