5 days left: Vålerenga looks to the future
The Norwegian national team has over the last seasons established itself as a reliable team in the top division of the World Championship. Now the time has come for the Norwegian clubs to make inroads in European clubhockey. Vålerenga, 26 times champions in Norway is one of the 18 clubs participating in the first edition of the European Trophy and will start their challenge against Czech team Sparta Praha at home in Oslo on Wednesday the 11th.
- This means a lot to us as a club and to our players who get the possibility to match themselves with some of the best players and best teams in Europe, says Anders Åsle, managing director at the club.
- It’s a huge opportunity for us and a great honour to be invited to the European Trophy. Sure, there is a big difference between our organisation and our economy compared to a lot of the other clubs in the competition, but we want to see this in the longer perspective.
It is a way to perhaps keep the young and upcoming Norwegian players at home little longer and help the sport develope domestically, make the league stronger and the fanbase broader.
- The success of the national team has made the public more aware of the game and has put more focus on us. But we are not really sure if the supporters will find their way to the arena this early in the season. Football is very big in Norway and we are in the middle of the football-season right now, says Anders Åsle.
The arena is historical Jordal Amfi, built to host the 1952 winter olympics in Oslo. It has undergone a facelift during the preseason, improving facilities, but the club is working hard to construct a new home, a more modern arena as well as building a strong and competative side. In the end of July, forward Thomas Enström joined the club from Swedish eliteteam Modo. And even after going on ice Monday the 2nd of August, the team has been strengthened with as many as four players. American forward Mark McCutcheon came in and Cato Cocozza returned to the club after two years at Sparta Sarpsborg. Then, only days later the defence was strengthened when defenders Antti Ylönen from Finnish side Kärpät and Tim Maxwell from Utah Grizzlies. David Bräck from Swedish side Bofors is also training with the club and will play in the European Trophy.
Coach of the team is Espen Knutsen, the first Norwegian player to really break through on the international scene. He was the one who opened the door to international hockey for all the other Norwegian players who have left to try their luck abroad, among them the two biggest Norwegian stars at the moment, Patrick Thoresen in the KHL and Mats Zuccarello Aasen who this season will try his luck in the NHL. Both of them come from Vålerenga, even though they never played for the first-team at the club.
Notable players to keep an extra eye on are goalkeeper Patrick DesRochers and experienced centreforward Blake Evans. The team in generally now consists of a lot of young talent with no less than eight players representing Norway U20 in the World Championship on the top level over the last couple of seasons. Steffen Thoresen, the younger brother of KHL-start Patrick will be one of the leading players of this year’s Vålerenga.
And the not so secret weapon of Vålerenga, number 41, Kongen (The King). Standing 2.10 meters tall and weighing in at 190 kilo, the mascot of the team is the biggest member of the squad.
Per Csongrádi (2010-08-06 12:36:37)
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