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Handy at Bandy

Kelly Engebretson keeps it cool on the ice

Published in 2021 Minnesota Super Lawyers magazine

“For the longest time, I thought bandy was broomball,” says Kelly Engebretson. “I thought you couldn’t wear skates, and I wasn’t interested in a sport where I can’t glide.”

A former college hockey player and a member of the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota (WHAM), Engebretson soon received a crash course: larger rink, 11 players on each side, ball instead of a puck, and yes, skates.

“I had a couple of WHAM friends who played bandy, and in 2014 they said they were going to play in an international tournament in Finland,” says Engebretson, a litigator at Moss & Barnett. “I’ve always loved the idea of traveling internationally, but never had much of an opportunity when I played college hockey. When they explained to me what the sport actually is—and that you can burn 800 calories a game—I was very interested, because you can imagine as a law student, you spend a lot of your time sitting.”

Engebretson immediately took to it. She has been a member of the USA Women’s National Team since 2014. Training involves working on stick- and ball-handling skills on tennis courts. The team also regularly schedules scrimmages, rink time, and workouts at area tracks. It’s all crucial for keeping pace with the competition.

“When we play against people in Sweden and Russia, they’ve been playing bandy as long as we’ve been playing hockey,” she says. “Their skills are so refined, and closing that gap is difficult, but that’s why we invest a lot of time.” 

The challenges don’t stop at the boards. “We have to fundraise and pay our own way for everything,” she says. “So that’s also another hurdle. When we hosted the World Championship in Roseville in 2018, we had to fundraise approximately $80,000.”

The upsides? In addition to the travel and the high-level competition, Engebretson met her husband while coaching a rec league bandy practice. She’s also come to embrace the sport as an international bridge-builder.

“When we go to these tournaments, it’s very intense and this is the only opportunity I’ve ever had to represent my country in sports. There’s something very special and unique about that experience,” she says. “And then, at the end of this tournament, you have a banquet where you get to sit down and meet these players from all over the world.

“Last year, we traded T-shirts with the Japanese players, and trying to broker the trade with the language barrier was a really fun experience.”

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