Way up North


read the Italian version

Stockholm sits at 59 degrees north, the same latitude as southern Alaska, Greenland or Hudson Bay. Travel 229 miles north and you come to the city of Härnösand . If you think you're now really up there in the north, that's what I thought too when I first arrived in Härnösand in early November 1985. I quickly learned that "way up north is a relative term. Härnösand's AIK was playing that 1985-86 season in the Swedish Northern First Division. The Northern made sense to me as Härnösand was further north than I had ever been. I learned, however, that Härnösand, together with  Sandslån and Soarer, were the southernmost teams in the Swedish bandy north. Umeå was another 110 miles north of Härnösand and Östersund 110 miles northeast.

UPjpg(photo by Chris Middlebrook)

 The remaining three teams in the league existed at the northern tip of the known Swedish bandy universe. Kalix and Ny org were 271 miles north of Härnösand and Karlsborg 306 miles north(or 535 miles north of Stockholm). No matter how the picture is painted, these three bandy clubs, Kalix BF, Nyborgs SK and Karlsborg BK, were way way up north. At 66 degrees latitude, they were less than 70 miles south of the Arctic Circle. While the sun at the summer solstice was up 24 hours, at the winter solstice, it was barely visible for 3 hours, low on the far southern horizon.

My first trip with Härnösand to the true bandy north of course took place on the weekend of the winter solstice 1985. We left on the team bus on Saturday morning,December 21, for the 110 mile drive to Umea and an afternoon game. Post game we got back on the busier the additional 161 mile drive to Nyborg for a noon time match on Sunday. 

murp1jpg(photo by Chris Middlebrook)

Although I had naively counted on passing some of the long horsey looking out the window enjoying the scenery, I soon realized that it would be dark the entire way and all I would see was my own reflection in the window. No forests, no lakes, no herds of reindeer, no polar bears. Instead, videos on the bus television and books I had checked out from the Härnösand library. At noon on Sunday, December 22-one day past the winter solstice-, some 60 miles from the Arctic Circle-the lights illuminating were blazing at full power. It was very dark outside. 

After the game we found our seats on the team buster the 271 mile drive through the deep winter blackjack to Härnösand, a quiet ride as we had lost to both Umea and Nyborgs.

(translated into italian by Laura Ragone) 

*CHRIS MIDDLEBROOK (He is a lawyer, was a professional bandy player and is also the author of a collection of 118 short stories - "The Bandy Chronicles-My Pursuit of a Forgotten Sport." As a US National Bandy Team player, coach and the current President of The American Bandy Association he has traveled extensively in the Nordic Countries, The Soviet Union and Russia as well as Central Asia and China. He currently resides in his hometown of Minneapolis together with his wife of 36 years, Cathy)

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