In the fourth edition of our Hometown Heroes series, we caught up with the man who got his hands on the Norwegian League trophy first: Anders Bastiansen, the Asker native who captained the Norwegian national team at the 2014 World Championships, and who wears the C for CHL debutants, Frisk Asker.
A fifth-placed finish in the GET Ligaen Regular Season meant that Frisk Asker were not fancied going into the Playoffs. “It was a rollercoaster season”, commented Bastiansen. “We played really good, and then we played really bad. But in the end, we managed to find a way to win and we’re really proud of that.”
“Since we’re not the biggest club in Norway, we showed that it is possible to win even if you don’t have the most money”, commented the 38-year-old forward.
"We came together as a group"
Frisk Asker captain Anders Bastiansen
When asked to put his finger on what made the team so successful in the Playoffs, Bastiansen commented, “We came together ask a group and found some rules that everyone was supposed to follow, and everyone did that, no matter how many minutes you played. We found a way to win games sometimes when we were down, and counted out, but we won. And that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”
Frisk Asker had the toughest route to the title, facing off against Lillehammer IK, Regular Season Champions Vålerenga Oslo and Storhamar Hamar, and Bastiansen acknowledged that his club were underdogs in both the Semi-Finals and Finals. Indeed, it all could have been over at the first stage, as Lillehammer took Frisk Asker to seven games in the Quarter-Finals.
What set apart Frisk Asker from the rest was the team’s away form in the Playoffs. On the road, Frisk Asker lost just 2 of 10 playoff games, a remarkable feat.
Speaking of the Lillehammer series, Bastiansen commented, “It was really tough, and the strange part was that we won every away game and lost every home game. I don’t think that has ever happened before, or at least I haven’t heard about it before. It was a really strange series with two good teams that were willing to do everything to win. We found a way to win the last game. We were down 1-0 and then scored two goals and got through.”
What followed were two fantastic series against Valeranga and Storhamar, with Frisk Asker winning both in six games. Bastiansen singled out the team’s defensive structure and goaltending as crucial elements of the team’s success.
“Nicklas Dahlberg in net was playing terrifically, so even though we gave away some chances, we knew that he could win some games for us. We were really good defensively, so whilst I think he [Dahlberg] was amazing, we also helped him out and made it easier for him”, Bastiansen said.
Bastiansen scored 10 points (1+9) in the Playoffs en-route to Frisk Asker’s first domestic title since 2002. The Asker native was also a member of this historic team and when asked to compare the two seasons, he said, “In 2002 we were bigger favourites to win it. We had a really good team. Of course, Storhamar had a good team too, but we were really close to them. But this year nobody believed in us and that made it even greater to win it this time. It was special because we were not favourites.”
After recording a further two seasons with Frisk Asker, Bastiansen left Norway in 2004, first joining IFK Arboga in the Swedish Allsvenskan, before joining Mora IK and embarking upon a storied career in the SHL. Most notably, Bastiansen played six seasons for Färjestad Karlstad, winning two Swedish titles in his time with the club.
"I love playing hockey, so I’m going to try and play as many years as my body allows me to"
“I would say that in the space of 5-6 years the club has been doing really well off-ice, particularly with their marketing”, said Bastiansen. “There will also be new rink in the future. It’s beginning to become a good stable club, so it’s easier to get good players to come to us, because everyone knows that if you come to Frisk Asker it is a really nice place to play. Not only on-ice but also off-ice, the club is beginning to become much more professional.”
Bastiansen, at age 38, is in the twilight of his career, but shows no sign of stopping. “Of course, now I am a little bit older than I was then. But the hockey develops, so when I started to play, you were allowed to hook a lot more, but now the game is much faster. The game changes all the time. It’s been really fun to manage play through those changes and different styles of hockey. I love playing hockey, so I’m going to try and play as many years as my body allows me to”, said the Asker native.
Frisk Asker will make their CHL debut in 2019/20. Speaking of his delight at getting to lead his hometown team into Europe’s premier club competition, Bastiansen said, “I think it will mean a lot. It’s the first time we’re in the CHL and I’m really looking forward to playing other teams from Europe. It’s going to be a really good experience for us. Maybe we’re not going to win this tournament, but we’re going to do the best we can to beat some teams.”
Bastiansen’s side will be looking to follow in the footsteps of CHL revelations, Storhamar Hamar, who are the only Challenger League team to reach the CHL Playoffs on two separate occasions. The forward stated that this also demonstrates Norwegian hockey’s strength.
“I would say that Norwegian hockey is much better than a lot of people think. Storhamar should be really proud of what they’ve done, they’ve been amazing. I watched some of their games on TV when they played in the CHL. Maybe some teams underestimated them, but after a while they shouldn’t have done it, because they beat really good teams home and away.”
“Hopefully we can do the same as them, but we have a tough group with three other good teams. We’re going to try as hard as we can, and hopefully we can play as we did in the Playoffs, especially winning away games!”, Bastiansen said.
Frisk Asker were drawn in an extremely challenging Group A, where they will face Austrian Champions KAC Klagenfurt, perennial Finnish challengers Tappara Tampere, and Swiss side EHC Biel-Bienne. See the full 2019/20 CHL schedule here.
Klagenfurt has a really good team, they have the Norwegian National Team goalie in net [Lars Haugen]. I played against them a couple of times and it’s a fun place to play. I think we’re going to have a good time going there, and they have a strong team, but I think that’s one of the teams we should be competing or even beating.”
“Tappara Tampere are always nearly in the Finals in Finland so they are a really good team. We know that Swiss teams are also really good, and you can see how the Swiss national team is doing really well, so EHC Biel-Bienne are going to be a tough opponent as well.”
Frisk Asker face a tough task in their debut CHL season, but as their near rivals have shown, anything is possible in the Champions Hockey League. When asked to sum up his team’s chances in their upcoming campaign, Bastiansen stated.
“I wouldn’t say we’re favourites in any game, so in that case, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We just have to try our best and see how far we can get”.