For the first time since 1992, Denmark will be competing in an IIHF Women’s World Championship. 2020’s tourney will be held in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia from Mar. 31 through Apr. 10. 19-year-old defender Kristine Melberg hopes that she will be one of the Danes selected to compete in Canada. She is one of the reasons why her country is even there to begin.
“It means the world for me to play for the Danish Women’s National Team,” Melberg told THW. “The U18 team, as well as the seniors where I am now. It’s always an honor representing our country, and hopefully something I will be doing for many more years. Of course, I’m hoping to be a part of the Danish team going to Halifax in April.
Melberg just turned 19 on Dec. 28th. Should she make the roster for the Danish contingent heading to Nova Scotia, it will be her third time playing for the Women’s National Team. Her first opportunity to do so came as a 16-year-old in Graz, Austria for the 2017 Division I-A tournament.
More recently, Melberg played in all 5 games for Denmark at the 2019 Division I-A’s in Budapest, Hungary this past April. The Danes took silver behind the host nation Hungarians, but still earned advancement into the Top Division.
Learning and Developing in Denmark
Melberg is from the Danish capital of Copenhagen. The physical 5-foot-7, 160-pound defender attributes her playing style and her playing successes to having skating alongside both girls and boys at all ages and levels.
“I started my carrer in a club called the Amar Jets where I only played with boys for many years,” Melberg explained. “I’ve always had a lot of opportunities to play both with the boys and the girls,. I believe that it has been essential for my development as a hockey player to have had a bunch of coaches who have always let me play along with the boys, while still being able to play with the girls in different clubs.”
In addition to starting out with Amar, Melberg spent five seasons suiting up for the Herlev Hornets in her homeland too. A quick puck-mover regardless of her sturdy build, she has done well with neutralizing opposing players in her own zone. Melberg is the type of defender that in most instances is physically stronger than her opponents, and gives them a heck of a time when they try to skate in around her.
“As a player, I think my best characteristics are my physique and my speed,” she said. “I’m a fast and a strong player. My focus has primarily been on the defensive part of my game, but I definitely look to develop my offensive game at the same time too.”
Moving on to Sweden With Malmö
This 2019-20 season saw Melberg venture forth from Denmark and take up residence in Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden. There she has suited up for the Malmö Redhawks – a team in Sweden’s Division I league. Division I is one level below the top level SDHL (Svenska damhockeyligan) – the premier women’s league in Sweden.
“The opportunity for me to play for Malmö came along because I already knew one of the players on the team,” Melberg said. “She contacted me on behalf of the coach, asking if I would be interested in playing there for the season. And of course I was very interested, and it didn’t take long before I had committed to them.”
Melberg has played in 18 of the Redhawks’ 19 games in 2019-20 – her fullest action yet for a team in one season. The average age of Malmö’s roster is just shy of 22 years old, making Melberg one of the younger ones. The three oldest players on the team are 27-year-old skaters Emma Lind, Jessica Campbell, and Josephine Asperup.
“I really like being a Redhawk for a lot of different reasons,” Melberg explained. “We have a great team spirit, and it always fun just being with the other girls and doing what we all love. On the ice it’s also a big improvement from where I came from. It’s a faster. and generally just a better league than the one I was playing in in Denmark. I really think that going to Malmö has helped my development, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.”
Toughness Rings True
Part of Melberg’s comfort level with the Redhawks stems from the composition of the team itself. Of the 23 players on the club’s active roster, 11 of them are her fellow Danish countrywomen. There are also eight Swedes, two Canadians, one Slovakian and one American.
After mentioning her build earlier, perhaps it is not surprising that Melberg is one of the more sizable players on the team. Though she may be one of the younger Redhawks, she is above the mark in terms of the club’s average height (5’6″) and their average weight (140lbs).
Melberg’s size may very well correlate to her preference for playing style. She is a hard-nosed blueliner, and her 47 penalty minutes in just 18 games are second-most for Malmö. Speaking to her defensive mindset, Melberg’s point totals have thus far amounted to a lone assist.
“I’ve always played with boys right up until this season,” she said. “And as everyone knows, guys are allowed to hit. By playing with guys, it has just always been an incorporated part of my game. It’s kinda hard to just turn it off, which is probably the main reason I am where I am on the penalty list.”
“Most of my penalties come from bodychecking,” Melberg went on to say. “And if it was up to me, we would definitely be allowed to hit in girls hockey. I’ve also gotten a one game suspension this year, but I mean, it’s hockey and that’s just what happens sometimes.”
Having SDHL and IIHF Goals
Ruggedness and determination to the utmost, Melberg is driven towards peak performance. That means both internationally with the Danish National Team, as well as the Redhawks. Melberg has expectations for both.
“Right now the focus is definitely on making it to the playoffs with Malmö,” she said. “Hopefully we’re going to end up playing for promotion to the SDHL for next season. Next year Denmark is definitely hoping to qualify for the 2022 Olympics – that would just be a dream come true. On the club level, I’ve always wanted to either play in the SDHL or maybe go to the States, but nothing is laid out. Right now my focus is on this season and completing it as well as possible.”
A much more imminent goal for Melberg could very well come to fruition soon. In early-March – just weeks after this interview – she will find out whether she will be selected or not to represent her country at the Halifax Women’s Worlds.
“It will mean everything to me if I’m on the team,” Melberg said. “It’s what I have been training for and thinking about ever since the Worlds last year. It would definitely be one of the biggest experiences of my life, and just a real honor.”