Cetacean Nation, was intrigued at the subtle but significant differences in the sport, especially the absence of the iconic solid orange balls we see frequently used in floor hockey. The design of the floorball is reminiscent of a more durable Wiffle Ball, which odds are, has probably been utilized from time to time in street hockey games. Moving the topic back to Michelle’s hockey career, we asked how she got her start in the organized sport. Michelle explained “ When I started playing hockey I was playing with my brother until they created a team for my own age group. Growing up in Sweden it is very common to play with boys until you are at least a teenager so that’s what I did. I still practiced with boys until I was 15-16 years old, but when the club I was playing for created a girls team I started the transition over to playing women’s hockey full time.” Michelle continued “In Sweden we don’t have school teams like here in America. We only have club teams, but as I grew up, the club teams started to have some sort of partnership with some high schools around Sweden. So in high school I played for a club team but had practices during the school day and the school helped you out if you needed to miss school for hockey. This was the case for other sports too so this way you could combine your sport with school.” That is a very cool arrangement, and probably a helpful background for a hockey player who has to juggle the dual careers of an NWHL player at present. And things are continuing to get better for Sweden’s female hockey players. Michelle added “Women’s hockey has come a long way in Sweden just the past few years. We have gotten more hockey camps for girls, there are more girls and women’s teams to play with, and the highest league in Sweden has expanded from eight teams to ten. Today the Swedish league even takes in a lot of international players and probably would be considered the best league in Europe for women’s hockey.”
And that league is where M-Lo (as Cetacean Nation often fondly refers to Michelle) first made her mark. And at the tender age of fifteen no less! Cetacean Nation asked about that and Michelle filled us in, saying “I played in the Swedish women’s hockey league (SDHL) ever since I was 15 years old. The day before I played the championship game in the year 2013, I turned 18 years old. I remembered thinking that it would be a dream come true to win that game and it could be my last chance to win a Swedish championship before I headed to college. We played against a team that had been in the championship game the past two years, I think. So they knew what it was all about. It was a close game, but I remembered that we played our hearts out and ended up winning 2-1. Turning 18 and winning the Swedish championship one day after the fact was a pretty big deal. You understand why.” We certainly do, and it was not the only amazing age related hockey story Michelle shared with us.
Prior to making her debut in the SDHL (the Elite Swedish Women’s Hockey League), Michelle was chosen to represent Sweden in the U18 World Championships which were in Chicago. An awesome accomplishment, especially for someone her age, but there was a hitch: and it was her age! Michelle related: “When I was 14 years old I got the honor to play for the U18 Swedish National team. At the end of that season there was a U18 World Championship in America. People had told me that I had to be 15 years old to fly over to the U.S. and play in the U18 World Championship. Good thing was that I turned 15 years old on the flight over, so by the time that I landed in the U.S. I was old enough to play.” Michelle reflected “I remember this tournament being one of the best experiences I have had in my hockey career. We had so much fun and we ended up winning the bronze medal. After that I played three more U18 World Championships and in my last year I had the honor to be captain, which was another huge and memorable thing for me.”
Michelle was not your average teen, not even by the ridiculously high standards of our NWHL players. Pretty good example of that is in M-Lo’s Olympic story. “She related “I was still 18 years old when I got the most amazing news ever. I was going to represent Sweden in the 2014 Olympics that took place in Sochi, Russia. This was an incredible experience that brought out the most amazing and miserable moments in my entire life. Winning and losing games in sports can really make an impact on your life. It didn’t end the way we wanted, but the experience is still like nothing else. It’s hard to describe the moments and memories created form this time at the Olympics. It gotta be experienced first hand.“ Sweden did suffer a heartbreaking loss to a historic and really underrated Swiss team in the Bronze Medal game, but it was a terrific tournament for Michelle. She had a goal and two assists at Sochi, with her goal coming against the powerhouse US team in the semi-finals. During her career to date in the SDHL, Michelle compiled an impressive stat line, as she did while representing Sweden in various international competitions. In the SDHL, Michelle has scored 40 goals and registered 58 assists for an impressive 98 points in just 106 games. On the international level, her production has been equally impressive, as she has accounted for 66 points at various levels with Team Sweden. But even with all of that success, Michelle had a vision and purpose in her hockey and life, and that led her back to the United States.
Specifically, that journey led to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Michelle revealed: “ I think I made a really good decision coming over to America and play college hockey. I’m happy that I decided to go to UMD. Playing hockey on such a high level and getting a degree at the same time was awesome. I chose to study Criminology and minor in Psychology. I did that because I thought it seemed like an interesting thing to study and is a degree I could see myself using in the future. I played with exceptional hockey players, met some great people, and the faculty is amazing. I definitely feel like I gained friends for life and I’m grateful for all the memories we created together on and off the ice.” One of those friends of course is her Bulldog teammate, our #92 Katka Mrazova who joined the Whale along with M-Lo this season. Michelle had a great career at UMD, accounting for 42 points and 117 blocked shots. She was also a multiple time WCHA Scholar- Athlete & WHCA All Academic Team selection as well.
Through 13 games in her rookie season with the Whale, Michelle has continued to perfect her three zone game. She has a pair of goals, three assists, and officially ten blocked shots, and was selected to the recent All Star Game in Nashville. That’s quite a start to her pro career, and we wondered how Michelle came to be part of the Pod. She replied: “After college I knew I wanted to continue to play hockey and continue to grow as a player. With four years experience in America the one thing I had on my mind was that I wanted to stay overseas. The hockey culture and the level of compete here is outstanding I think. I wanted to play against the best players in the world and that’s what the NWHL has given me. I wish the league could add some more teams and get some more attention, cause the league got a lot of potential.” With the record crowd that attended the NWHL All Star Game, indications are that Michelle’s wish will be granted! Michelle has roamed pretty far afield in pursuit of her hockey and educational goals. But as she joined the Whale, she was able to avail herself of a great hockey tradition: living with a billet family. Michelle spoke fondly of her opportunity with Marine & Jerome Devillers and their family. “I moved to Connecticut after livin’ in Minnesota for four years and ended up in a house with five kids and their parents. It turned out that this was a great fit for me and I’m very lucky to have gotten to know them. Marine and Jerome are so nice and have helped me out a lot. Their kids love hockey, are very well behaved, and we have a lot of fun together. So a special thank you to them and for welcoming me into their family.” Cetacean Nation knows how grateful players are for this opportunity, and Fins Up to the Devillers for their support of young players like Michelle. And it must be pretty cool for the little ones too, to have pro hockey player staying in their house!
Cetacean Nation knows that there is usually a story connected to a player’s number, and that is certainly true in Michelle’s case. She gave us this poignant explanation for her choice to wear uniform #67: “The #67 has a very important meaning to me. I have it to honor my dad and for him to be close to me even though he can’t be here and see me play. He was born the year 1967 and passed away when I was younger. He was a great dad and an amazing person.” And we are sure he would be justifiably proud of his talented daughter Michelle Karin. In closing, Michelle offered this shout out to the fans. “ I just want to end with saying that I think we have very dedicated and great fans, which is a lot of fun and needed. I appreciate all the support and looking forward seeing you.” Cetacean Nation thanks our #67 Michelle Lowenhielm, the Pod’s “Smorgasbord of Talent” for her great input, and sharing these parts of her story with us.Fins Up M-Lo!