Minneapolis skaters compete in bandy world championship


Minneapolis residents on the F17U – USA National Bandy Team (Front row l-r) Lauren Erazmus, Anthony Middle School; Lucy Kiernat, Blake School; Erica Lieske, Anthony Middle School; Siri Hanson, Washburn High School (Back row l-r) Finn Larson, Academy of Holy Angels; Ingrid Lundberg, Benilde St. Margaret’s; Jane Carlson, Southwest High School; Sophie Radam, Annunciation School; KK Haug, Lake Harriet Upper; Lilah Schulz, South High School Not Pictured: Erin Patton, Benilde St. Margaret’s

You may have never heard of bandy, but the junior Bandy World Championships are coming to town  — and 10 of the U.S. teammates are 8th and 9th graders from South Minneapolis.

Bandy is comparable to hockey, with a few key differences. Skaters play a game that looks like field hockey with a plastic ball instead of a puck. The game is played on a rink the size of a soccer field, with almost twice the amount of space per player. There is no body checking, and virtually no contact is allowed.

“It’s a lot less contact and a lot more speed,” said Siri Hanson, a Washburn High School student.

The team practiced at Lake of the Isles on a recent weekend, preparing to meet opponents from Russia, Finland and Sweden. The tournament runs Feb. 25-27 at the John Rose Oval in Roseville.

Hanson is a little nervous — she will compete against players who grew up playing bandy in Europe, where the game is more common. But she’s noticed that bandy practice improves her skating.

“You can be an effective hockey player without necessarily being a great skater,” said Paul Larson, a tournament organizer. “In bandy, you have to skate. In Europe, the best bandy players are inevitably the best skaters.”

U.S. teammate and South High student Lilah Schulz is already a hockey goalie and a soccer goalie. But playing as a bandy goalie is still a challenge, she said.

“It’s a lot bigger net,” she said. “There is more diving for the ball.”

Local hockey players were introduced to the game through cultural exchange trips to Sweden.

“A core group of families really kind of fell in love with the sport,” Larson said.

They put in a bid to host the world championships and won. It’s the first time a junior world bandy championship has been played in North America.

The team is aiming to raise $18,000 via gofundme.com to help cover the cost of hotels, transport and food for the visiting teams. The USA team had raised $5,750 at press time.

A potential future step involves a trip to Europe in two years for the next world championship. The core group of players is young enough they could compete a second time, Larson said.

“What we hope to create is a fun memory for the girls,” he said.