Relative to their population, Iceland is the sixth biggest ice hockey nation in the world. Out of 100,000 people, some 192 skate and hit puck and opponent. Just to compare: this is about nine times higher than Germany or five times higher than Latvia. However, it is also a typical way how to lie with statistics – as Iceland only has some 350k inhabitants and thus an overall of 675 active registered players, according to the IIHF statistics at the time of writing. To make things worse, there are just three ice rinks in the whole country. Two are located in Reykjavik, one is in Akureyri, that’s it.
Based on all that, I was really curious to watch a match of the Icelandic Hertz Deildin Div. 1, the Icelandic Elite Hockey League. There is an elite league for men and women as well as junior leagues. On 16th October 2021, I had the opportunity to watch the like two best teams of Iceland, hosting Fjölnir Reykjavik and the champions of the previous years, SA (Skautafélag Akureyrar) from Akureyri.
Egilshöll – Location & Transport
Egilshöll is located Northeast of the city center of Reykjavik, not that far away from ring route #1 towards Akureyri. If you are not in the area for sports, you might likely not make it to this part of Reykjavik as a tourist. I read some recommendations about the cemetry and a sculpture garden closeby, that’s about it. There is also a adventure golf site not too far away, which feels to be popular in summer. The arena itself is located in a rather commercial area.
I went there by car, which is quite handy and easy. There is sufficient parking around. You may also get to Egilshöll by public transport. Numerous buses stop somewhere around the arena, e.g. the lines 6, 7, 18, 24 or 31.
Egilshöll – The Complex and the Ice Rink
Egilshöll is much more than just an ice rink. I would rather describe it as a multiplex sports and entertainment center. For example, the place hosts a few restaurants, a cinema, a bowling alley and a gym. The most impressive part of Egilshöll is likely the fully roofed full-size soocer field. Last, but not least, it is the home of Fjölnir – the club’s banner is not only shown on the building, but they also have an office right behind the entrance. For concerts, the main venue can be used with up to 18,000 spectators.
The home of the Björninn (“Bears”), how Fjölnir names their hockey skaters, is located one floor above the main facilities. The ice rink has a capacity of 250 (according to Wikipedia). It actually feels quite nice, like a typical minor size ice rink. The rink is of course also used for public skating so that one of the first things you actually see when you enter is the collection of skates for rent. The arena has one very modern match clock (the other one is more the old-fashioned type of display). Egilshöll has ice all year. One spectator told me that this is due to a hole in the concrete below the rink – if they would melt down the ice in summer, they would likely shower the fellow sportsmen in the gym below.
Egishöll – Services
Before and during the match, Fjölnir is operating a snack shop with drinks, but also hot dogs, cheese and ham toasts and other simple dishes. The prices are fine. My coffee was 300 ISK, less than two Euro. The store also seems to sell ice hockey equipment and some basic souvenirs of the Björninn.
Fjölnir Reykjavik at Egilshöll – Atmosphere
Even though the match had its emotional moments, the arena is rather quiet. There are scattered cheers for any of the teams. I happened to run into a youth match before (see below), as I had a wrong schedule. This one came without announcement, which I did not like. Even during the men’s match, the announcements and music was below the quality and reliability of the matches in better youth divisions in Germany. The people were really friendly and helpful – the hockey family surely includes the Nordic island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Fjölnir Reykjavik – SA Akureyri 3:4 (1:1, 1:3, 1:0) – The Match
As said, a wrong schedule made me run into an Under 16 match. One remarkable fact was that the league is a mixed league – both teams also had female skaters in their lineup, who did a pretty good job and even scored. You saw that it is a developing sports and that Iceland comes with a remarkable general talent for sports. Nonetheless, the match (was which a battle of the same two clubs) could not compare to a Germany Under 16 top level league match, for example.
I came back for the men’s match, which was at 19:30. Admission was 1,000 ISK, roughly 6.70 EUR. There were maybe some 80 spectators in the area. I was quite surprised that the match was broadcasted with three cameras. While Akureyri felt to be very dominating the last years, Fjölnir definitely had their chances to win this one. Maybe, from their perspective you even have to say that they should have won this one. Whenever they felt to be in the driver’s seat, they weakened themselves with mistakes or undisciplined behavior. Akureyri felt to handle the partially unpredictable umpiring much better than the hosts, who finally lost their match due to silly pentalties late in the second period. As said, I did not like the umpiring, but it is time of your match preparation to also adjust to whoever is doing this job.
Nonetheless, the match was very entertaining. Especially on the skating and physical side, the players felt very good. The weak spots felt to be too many technical and tactical mistakes on both sides and sometimes also stick-handling issues.
Fjölnir Reykjavik at Egilshöll – My View
I have really been looking forward to that match – and finally, Fjölnir and SA gave me an entertaining time. If you have a bad weather day or just feel like some sports entertainment, grab your warm jacket and head into Egilshöll – it is definitely worth a visit.
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