Bud Holloway, right, in the Swedish Elite League championship game Thursday.

Bud Holloway a hero in Sweden

April 22, 2013 9:04 am
Kevin Weedmark

-Leads Swedish Elite League in points for the season
-Wins championship with Skelleftea AIK

Bud Holloway's hockey career has taken him from the Wapella rink to the Seattle Thunderbirds to the NHL draft to the pinnacle of the Swedish Elite League.

Holloway was a third-round draft pick by the LA Kings in 2006, but was kept on the roster of the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, where he was the leading scorer in 2010-2011 with 28 goals and 33 assists for the season

In the 2011-2012 season he made the move to the Swedish Elite League and Skelleftea AIK. He made an impact immediately, setting the all-time record for most goals scored in the Elite League playoffs.

Last year he was the fifth-leading scorer in the Swedish Elite League and this year Holloway led the Elite League in scoring through the regular season with 71 points.

Holloway also scored the game winner for Skelleftea in overtime in game 1 of the final series.

On Thursday night, Holloway and Skelleftea won the Elite League championship.

The celebration started at Skelleftea's home arena that night, and continued into the next day.

"We just had a big celebration in the town square," Holloway told the World-Spectator in an interview Friday.

"The whole team was on stage, the whole square was full of people, everyone was jumping around, they were so excited."

He said nothing can beat the feeling of being part of a championship team. "It feels great. It's fantastic just to win the championship. A lot of hard work goes into it. We've got a great team, and it's been a great season for us."

Holloway says the calibre of play is similar to the American Hockey League, in which he played with the Manchester Monarchs.

"It's similar to the AHL-it's a pretty elite league," he said. "It's a little more open-it's really good hockey and it's fun to play in. You can be a little more creative than in North American hockey-less grind, not as much dump and chase, a bit more finesse."

Holloway says he is very happy with how the season went. "I was blessed with a great year here," he said. "It goes with having a great team-they were the calibre of players to help me out."

He went from being fifth top scorer in the league last year to top scorer this year. "I just have a bit more experience, and my team was so good this year I was able to generate some good offence," he says.

Holloway has become a bit of a celebrity in hockey-crazy Sweden.

"It's kind of crazy," he says. "I love being at home in Wapella, being able to blend in. Here people will stop and take pictures of me in the grocery store, or walking down the street.

"It's nice to come home to Saskatchewan and be myself-it's kind of like two different worlds."

One of the brightest moments of the playoffs for Holloway was when he scored the winning goal in overtime in game 1 of the final series. "That was insane," he says. "It was a 0-0 game going into overtime. The crowd went insane. It's kind of hard to explain the atmosphere over here in the rink and town. They're really die-hard hockey fans here."

The celebration after his team won the championship was amazing, he said. "They presented us with gold medals and everything. We won away, and when we came home to the rink it was just pandemonium in the arena. People were singing, flags were flying, flares were going off- it was crazy. It's hard to take it all in and explain it.

"In this town they love hockey. It's the hockey team. It's what everyone talks about, just like you would in a town in Saskatchewan."

Holloway still maintains strong ties in Saskatchewan, and he has some fans who watched the Swedish playoffs at his parents' restaurant-Wendy's Place-in Wapella.

"It's still home," he says. "I still come home in the summers. Nine months away is a pretty long time to be away and I'm a pretty big family guy, I want to get back.

"Mom and Dad have the playoff games on the TV at the restaurant. Dad says it was almost full watching the games through the playoffs.

"I thank everyone who took the time to come out and cheer me on. Even though they are across the ocean it means a lot to me."

Holloway comes from a hockey family whose name is synonymous with Wapella-his dad George had offers to play in the WHL and his grandfather, also George, was one of the five Holloway brothers who were known in rinks across southeast Saskatchewan in decades past.

Does he plan to continue his career in the Swedish Elite League? "I'm happy here," he says. "I love the town and the team and the organization, but I don't know what the future has in store."