International Ice Hockey Federation

Grahm nails it for Sweden

Grahm nails it for Sweden

Top goal-scorer is thriving, not just surviving

Published 30.03.2015 14:06 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Grahm nails it for Sweden
Erika Grahm celebrates a goal for Sweden at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship in Malmo. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Four years ago, if someone told you Erika Grahm would be leading the 2015 IIHF World Women’s Championship in scoring, it would have been hard to believe.

The Swedish player was taken ill in the summer of 2011, suffering from pain, tingling, headaches, and exhaustion. Her legs virtually stopped working. Sometimes, she found herself in bed for up to 22 hours a day. She lost feeling in one side of her face.

Doctors initially diagnosed Grahm with multiple sclerosis, but then a specialist correctly identified it as Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system. After spending a week hooked up to an IV unit in the hospital, she spent a month at home recovering before finally lacing up her skates again.

What would the future hold?

“She worked really hard after this sickness,” said linemate Emma Nordin, who also plays with Grahm with Modo Hockey, a club in the northern Swedish town of Ornskoldsvik. “She deserves everything she has. She’s getting better and better all the time.”

It was tough for Grahm to regain her speed and strength, but she persevered with daily physical workouts and psychological coaching. And now she’s thriving.

The 24-year-old forward is participating in her fourth Women’s Worlds, and she also chipped in four assists in six games when she made her Olympic debut in Sochi.

In December, she put out a book called From Paralyzed to an Olympian. co-written with Olof Wigren and published by the Vasteras-based company Idrottsforlaget, it provides not only an inspirational look at her challenging road to recovery, but also an insider’s view of women’s hockey in Sweden.

Yet Grahm makes it clear that here in Malmo, she’s not thinking about how many copies she can sell or where her next book signing might take place. “I don’t think about my book now,” she told “I’m only focused on hockey and being a good player out there.”

How good has she been? Her four goals so far in this tournament (including a hat trick against Japan) equal her entire output from her three previous Women’s Worlds. If the host nation goes on to capture its first medal since 2007, she’ll be a big reason why.

“She’s been in a zone,” said Swedish head coach Leif Boork. “She’s scored a lot of goals in the league too. I am not surprised that she has scored so many goals here.”

Grahm comes from a Modo club that’s world-famous for producing NHL superstars like Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins, and Peter Forsberg, the current GM. While she admires Forsberg’s style, and sees him regularly since she works in Modo’s offices, she said her true inspiration for playing hockey came from a former Modo female player, Therese Sjolander.

In a nod to Grahm’s hockey acumen, Swedish TV recently invited her to serve as a guest commentator for its broadcast of the Swedish women’s hockey finals between AIK and Linkoping.

Away from the rink, Grahm likes to relax with the music of Swedish singer-songwriter Lars Winnerbeck, and watch her favourite TV series, like One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl. She enjoys golfing in the summer and spending time with her friends and family.

She cheerfully volunteers that she has some “girly” tendencies: “I do my nails and I have fake eyelashes. I like to be a girl outside the rink. I think it’s fun. These are my World Championship nails. Can you see it?”

Fans can’t see it when she’s wearing hockey gloves, but her nails are painted blue and yellow, the Swedish colours. Last month, she says she painted them red in honour of Modo.

Grahm’s fun, optimistic personality embodies a great message for young women everywhere: you can confront a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, overcome it, and feel the joy of life again.

And whether you’re talking about her personal style or her goal-scoring ability, there’s no doubt about one thing: Erika Grahm is absolutely nailing it for Sweden.


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