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Hockey’s Growing Cold War

Spooked by Russia, Sweden just reinstated the draft. Could it affect the country’s best young hockey players and the NHL?

Sweden—neutral land of Volvos, meatballs, and the Nobel Prize—typically takes a back seat when it comes time to discuss international geopolitics. That changed somewhat when President Donald Trump suddenly and without context made a baffling reference to the country as “having problems like they never thought possible” with regard to refugees. Officials across Sweden were mostly confused by the president’s assertion, but that’s not to say there haven’t been stark changes in Sweden in recent weeks. And it may be too soon to tell exactly how that change may affect one of Sweden’s most cherished natural resources: hockey players.

On March 2, the Swedish government announced that it would be reinstituting its military draft. Conscription was first introduced in Sweden in 1901 and proved crucial in assembling the country’s military at the height of the Cold War. The tactic was slowly fazed out—before being dismissed altogether in 2010. But a glaring shortfall in military recruiting and the recent sighting of Russian aircraft intruding on NATO airspace inspired Sweden to bring back its draft.


[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]The 2006 Olympic hockey gold medalists, Sweden has provided a pipeline of world-class hockey talent to the National Hockey League for decades.[/quote]

Sweden is not a member of NATO, but it has contributed troops to a variety of NATO-led missions, including peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Russia’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy and the sighting of its planes veering over airspace belonging to Swedish neighbors Finland and Estonia last November ultimately led to the return of conscription.

“The security environment in Europe and in Sweden's vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn't provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel,” said an official statement courtesy of the Swedish government. “The reactivating of the conscription is needed for military readiness.”

Sweden’s growing concern over regional instability doesn’t end with the draft. The Swedish government also announced in March that it would increase military spending this year by 500 million crowns, or about $55.7 million. That’s a marked increase for a country that continually reduced military spending in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War.

Which naturally leads to the question of Sweden’s ice hockey players. The 2006 Olympic hockey gold medalists, Sweden provided a pipeline of world-class hockey talent to the NHL for decades. Today, many of the league’s biggest stars hail from Sweden, including Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.

Washington Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom

The issue of how the draft might affect young hockey players hasn’t been discussed much, but there’s little doubt the recent news could eventually affect some top young players down the road.

“I think it might be a small chance that it could affect some of the players maybe in the future. It’s a little bit early to say, but it’s realistic,” said Peter Wallen, a former Swedish pro player, who as an agent now represents some top Swedish players, including Victor Hedman and Gabriel Landeskog.

Of course, the draft previously existed when top young Swedes were looking to take their game to North America. Wallen expects some players, as they did when the draft previously existed, could perhaps negotiate with the government should they be called into service.

“Back in the day when it was mandatory, there were always possibilities to talk to the organization for the military, maybe to find a common ground,” he said. “It’s a little bit early to say how it will affect, but probably it will affect (players) in some way down the road.”

Twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks

Though it likely wasn’t by design, Swedish hockey officials voiced their own philosophical shift the same week as Sweden’s military announcement.

On March 8, four Swedish hockey officials attended the NHL general managers’ meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, to make their case for allowing their players to stay longer in their home country rather than moving to North America. With the NHL offering the world’s top competition, as well as the salaries to match, greater numbers of Swedish hockey players have been coming to North America in an attempt to pursue their hockey dreams. Today, players as young as 16 and 17 now leave Sweden to play junior hockey in Canada or college hockey in the United States. According to QuantHockey.com, Swedes made up 9.1 percent of NHL players in the 2016-17 season, almost double the figure of the 2000-01 season, when Swedes made up 4.8 percent of the league’s players.

“Maybe every second player that goes too early will never reach their own potential. They will stop developing,” Swedish Ice Hockey Association general secretary Tommy Boustedt said following the Boca Raton meetings. “Of course that doesn't matter when you have big numbers of players to choose from, but we have so few players because we're such a small country.”

It’s unlikely there’s a link between Sweden’s military conscription and this hockey meeting in Florida, but the timing of both events is interesting. At the very least, it all points to a philosophical shift permeating some of the country’s most prominent institutions.

It’s likely too early to tell if the military draft will affect hockey players pursuing their pro dreams, or if perhaps there may be a system of negotiations in place for such world-class players if they choose to pursue their careers in North America. All we know so far is that 4,000 Swedish men and women will be called into service this July after being drawn from a pool of 13,000 natives born in 1999.

And if a Swedish hockey phenom is conscripted into the military? Interesting times, indeed.

Sports
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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The Planet