How can you go from rookie status to national and international stardom in just one year?
Just ask the Stingers’ hockey team’s goaltender. Tewnty-one-year-old Swedish native Cecilia Anderson has been tending nets for the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team for less than a year. She’s managed to sneak her way up as not only one of the top goaltenders in Canada, but as a prospect for the Swedish national team.
Anderson has not always been the top-notch athlete she is now. Years of hard work, combined with intense dedication, have helped her improve over the past year.
Ever since she was a little girl living in Vaddo, Sweden, her dedication has been a personality trait. Without it, she probably wouldn’t be playing hockey right now.
“At seven years old, I just wanted to play hockey, but my mom said no,” Anderson recalls. “But when I want something, I’ll do anything to just get it. So I was just asking and asking, and finally, she put me into hockey school.”
What’s surprising to learn is that Anderson didn’t originally plan on becoming a goaltender. As a young girl, she played on a boys’ team. The team needed a roster with three goaltenders, but only had two full-time goaltenders. So Anderson and her teammates took turns filling in between the pipes.
“The more and more I played goalie, the more I found out I really liked it,” she says. “So I decided to stick with that position.”
In Sweden, Anderson played with two men’s hockey teams, Norrtljelk and RimboIF until she reached the age of 18. She then joined Ekerlk, a women’s hockey team. However, she noticed that the level of women’s hockey in Sweden wasn’t up to par compared to other countries, such as Canada.
Although she recognized that there are many strong female hockey players in Sweden, Anderson thinks the level of play amongst Canadian players is much higher.
Her first contact with the Concordia Stingers was in 2002. The Anderson family welcomed former Stinger Anne-Marie St. Germain in their home thanks to a ringuette foreign exchange program. The Andersons heard all about the legendary exploits of the Concordia Stingers and of their coach, Les Lawton.
“Cecilia’s father got in touch with Anne-Marie’s father, who got in touch with me about Cecilia wanting to play for us,” Lawton said. “I never heard about Cecilia, let alone seen her play. I didn’t make any promises, but I invited Cecilia to come practice with us.”
As a result, Anderson arrived in Montreal in the summer of 2002 with little English skills but with the desire to play hockey. In practices and in small tournaments, she played every week with some of the Stingers and enrolled in a private downtown school for a month and followed intensive English classes.
In January 2003, she began studying at Concordia in the leisure sciences program. Although she was on the Stingers’ roster, Anderson didn’t see any ice time in the 2002-2003 season.
Late last summer, Anderson followed classes with Jim Corsi. Corsi, a former National Hockey League (NHL) goaltender and current coach, helped Anderson improve her skills and technique.
“Cecilia’s a great athlete, but it took her time to adapt to the level of women’s hockey here,” Lawton said. “We put her in Jim Corsi’s school at the beginning of August 2003. She certainly had the raw skills to begin with, and she just got better from there.”
Anderson did not mind the long wait or the hard training. All she wanted to do was play hockey. That’s the reason she came to Canada to pursue her hockey career..
“I saw this as my big opportunity to play hockey, Canada is a hockey country,” she says. “I developed a lot since I came here. The level here is a lot higher, so if you play at a higher level, your level will go up too.”
In her last two years in Sweden, her quality of play had reached a plateau. She has now developed more goaltending technique and butterfly style, something she lacked back home.
Her hard work in the past year worked out in the Stingers’ favour. Stinger captain and defender Janna Gillis didn’t know what to expect from Anderson, but was happy with the result.
“Cecilia worked out perfectly (for us), she is such a solid goaltender. Her pure talent and hard work ethic won her the spot of number one goalie,” Gillis said. “Any team has high expectations with goalie’s, and Cecilia lived up to all those and more.”
In just one season with the Stingers, Anderson gathered many personal achievements. She was named the Quebec Student-Sports Federation Rookie of the Year, and with reason: she posted an 11-1-3 record in regular season play and recorded five shutouts in 15 games.
She is also one of the top five university goaltenders in Canada. Her success here has attracted attention back home. In February, she tried out for the Swedish National Team, which will participate in the World Championship this summer. Anderson will find out shortly whether she’s earned a spot.
Despite all she’s achieved, Anderson keeps a grounded attitude about her hockey career. She takes everything a day at a time.
“It’s nice to think about the future, but you have to focus on one game at a time. If I focus on getting to Nationals or on making the Swedish team, I’ll never get there,” Anderson said. “You’ll never know if you can make it until you get there.”