Red Deer’s Abby Thiessen finished her final season of collegiate hockey at St. Cloud State University Huskies earlier this year and will play for Leksand in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League next year. (Photo courtesy of Maddie McFarlane/St. Cloud State University Athletics)

Red Deer’s Abby Thiessen signs pro hockey contract in Sweden

Red Deer’s Abby Thiessen is keeping the hockey dream alive.

The 22-year-old defenceman recently signed a one-year contract to play with Leksands IF, in the 10-team professional Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL).

The Red Deer product said after her final season of NCAA Division I hockey at St. Cloud State University, she was determined to keep playing. After talking to a few former teammates and coach from Sweden, she knew this was a great opportunity.

“I know some of the girls that have been in the league the last couple of years and I’ve heard all good things. It’s one of the best leagues you can play in after college around the world. I’m really excited about that,” she said.

“You get to see a whole new side of the talent. I’ve heard it’s a really good, competitive league and that’s what I was looking for… I’m not really ready to give up the competitiveness yet. I think it will be a really good experience and kinda neat to play against the best of the best over there as well.”

She said there were offers from other teams across the league, but noted it was the small-town feel of Leksand and its hockey-centric community was a huge selling factor.

It reminded her of Grand Forks, North Dakota, where she played one season of NCAA Division I hockey with the University of North Dakota.

“Leksand also has a really nice rink and good facilities which is always nice to make it your home,” added Thiessen, who will get paid a small monthly salary, plus receive room and board to play for Leksand.

“I talked to the coach as well and he explained what they were trying to do as a club and I liked what he had to say and thought it was the best fit for me.”

The SDHL, established in 2007 is a 10-team league with franchises spread out across the country. They play 36 games a year, plus playoff rounds. Several past and present Olympic and world champions have played in the league.

Last year, the SDHL reached a TV deal to broadcast games on Swedish television, a deal that reportedly will show more than 200 elite women’s hockey games each year. They are the only women’s professional hockey league with such a deal.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDHL is on track to start on Sept. 12, when Thiessen and Leksand take on Brynas. The regular season wraps up in Feb. before the playoffs get underway.

Throughout the year, there will be a few season breaks, as most players join their national teams for tournaments.

Thiessen, who has never been to Europe, said she’s excited to use that time to do some traveling.

She plans on heading to Sweden some time in early August, to get set up before the season starts.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m sure it will soon,” she said.

She’s also had to try and brush up on her Swedish downloading an app to work on it but confessed she isn’t the most language inclined person.

“It’s a little harder than I thought, I don’t have any other language abilities,” she said with a laugh.

Her path to the NCAA, which started at the University of North Dakota and unexpectedly lead to three years with the Huskies in Minnesota, has been a dream since she was a young hockey player.

Not only does she hope that inspires kids from Red Deer to chase their hockey dream, but she also hopes this latest step encourages players to think outside the box when it comes to their hockey future.

“I hope to kinda show and highlight the different paths you can take. I think that’s something I benefited from,” she said.

“I hope I can shed some light on it. If you want to do it, there are these options out there. You can do it. Making it known that these options are out there to girls, especially female hockey players.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

Severe thunderstorm watch and heat warning issued for Red Deer and area

Red Deer and region are under both a heat warning and severe… Continue reading

Anti-bullying ride coming to Red Deer to support eight-year-old girl

A Red Deer girl who has been a victim of bullying for… Continue reading

Residents urged to fight energy industry tax breaks

County of Stettler and Lacombe County say tax breaks could cost them millions

Central Alberta pharmacies ramp up COVID-19 testing

Province extended 20-pharmacy pilot project to more than 90 last month

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Dubois, Blue Jackets down Leafs 4-3 in overtime to grab 2-1 series lead

Dubois, Blue Jackets down Leafs 4-3 in overtime to grab 2-1 series lead

Canadian featherweight Kyle (The Monster) Nelson to face Billy Quarantillo

Canadian featherweight Kyle (The Monster) Nelson to face Billy Quarantillo

Jason Day leads PGA as Koepka continues to be a major force

Jason Day leads PGA as Koepka continues to be a major force

Canadian Gavin Tucker looks to grind down Justin (Guitar Hero) Jaynes on UFC card

Canadian Gavin Tucker looks to grind down Justin (Guitar Hero) Jaynes on UFC card

Chicago scores two goals late, beats Edmonton 4-3 in NHL post-season

Chicago scores two goals late, beats Edmonton 4-3 in NHL post-season

Canucks beat Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying game

Canucks beat Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying game

Laughton scores twice to lead Flyers past Capitals 3-1

Laughton scores twice to lead Flyers past Capitals 3-1

Braves’ Markakis hits walkoff HR after opting into season

Braves’ Markakis hits walkoff HR after opting into season

Most Read