Sweden's quest for a spot at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games has received an important support from a former NHL star and Olympic champion.
Daniel Tjarnqvist became the assistant coach of the Swedish national Para ice hockey team in May when he got the call from team captain Timo Lahtinen.
The Ostersund 2021 World Championships B-Pool is Tjarnqvist's debut as part of the coaching staff as Sweden is trying to qualify for the Winter Paralympics Qualification Tournament later this year.
Tjarnqvist retired as a professional ice hockey player in 2015 and has since coached only the Lidingo Vikings under-18 team. He has also had spells as development and conditioning coach for the Djurgardens IF at the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL.
Asked about his early experience with the Swedish national Para ice hockey team, the 44-year-old answered with a big smile.
“It’s a lot of fun. I like the group that I’m in. They are very professional out there on the ice and they work hard. It is a little bit different than the able-bodied ice hockey, but there is not much separating the two,” said the Olympic champion from Turin 2006.
Tjarnqvist had 352 appearances in the NHL during his long-lasting career playing for Atlanta Trashers, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche.
Even though he has a huge amount of ice hockey experience, the Swede still got surprised by Para ice hockey.
“It’s really quick. When I was playing, I was a defenseman so we skated backwards all the time. That is the biggest adjustment to Para ice hockey that I have to look at. On the other hand, it’s all about closing the gap to the opponent which is the same in able-bodied ice hockey and Para ice hockey,” said Tjarnqvist who did not fare well while playing the sport.
“I tried Para ice hockey, but I didn’t succeed in it.”
Kind players ease the transition
Sweden already played three games at the Ostersund 2021 Worlds B-Pool. They triumphed in two of them against Finland (6-0) and Poland (6-0), while they lost out to Germany (1-3).
They are currently sitting in third place with the top three earning spots at the Beijing 2022 Qualification Tournament later this year.
“We are aiming for the top three. We are going to play every game as if it was our last game. Everything is on the table for us to take it and be in the top three to qualify for the Paralympic Qualification Tournament.”
Sweden is facing the undefeated Chinese team on Tuesday (17:00). They will end the tournament against Japan on Wednesday (17:00) in a game that could decide the team which will book the final ticket to the qualifiers.
As a former NHL star and an Olympic Games winner, Tjarnqvist stands out in this Swedish team, but he did not let that get in the way of him learning a lot from the national team players.
“You get very humble when you are with this kind of team. They do a great job and they are always happy. They have been very kind to me,” he explained.
Although he is not yet overthinking the possibility of participating at the both Olympic and Paralympic Games, the former Swedish ice hockey player would not want to miss out on the opportunity.
“I am really looking forward to it. Our main focus is to get into the top three, but after that our biggest aim is to qualify for the Paralympic Games,” concluded Tjarnqvist.
All games from Ostersund are being streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website and Facebook page.
More information about the teams, complete schedule, and results can be found on the Ostersund 2021 microsite.