by | Jun 3, 2024 | Literature

Chris Middlebrook Photo: Gert Holmér

The new book project by

Chris Middlebrook

He has been a Russian major, the first true bandy professional, his bandy career is now in it’s  year 44, one of his funniest bandy moments was playing bandy in Irkutsk in -48,3 C (-55 F), he was the first North American playing for a Swedish team and he has been called “one of the Best Lawyer in Minnesota”.

I am talking about Chris Middlebrook, turning 67 this coming summer and now focused on giving birth to “The Song of Bandy”. The book that will give bandy lovers around the Globe a lot of moments and stories from varied corners of the world corners of the sport.

-A light bulb went on in my brain while in Gothenburg in March, listening to others tell bandy stories, that a book of bandy stories encompassing the depth and breadth of bandy and its history would resonate with the entire bandy world and could also be beneficial in promoting bandy. Not a history or chronology but rather taking history, facts, even legends, and turning it into an interesting, even fascinating read, says Chris.

Chris and Cathy

He lives is Minnesota where he was born and raised. Married to Cathy with celebration of 40 years together in August. They met at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1982. The life together have given them Ian 32 and Delaney 31.

Ian is also bandyplayer of course. Began in the Bandolier at 15 and won 5 US Championships and also played two World Championships and also spent four months in Arkhangelsk imbedded with Vodnik in 2012. The daughter, Delaney, played 4 years of ice hockey in Sweden, winning the Swedish Championship with Djurgården in 2017 and earned her Master in Business Administration at Karlstad University in 2019.

What about your occupational story then?
-I was a Russian major with a triple minor in business, history and political science at Gustavus Adolphus College. I earned my JD/Law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1983. I then played 2 years bandy in Sweden, and also worked for the Rollerblade Company where I wrote a book on dryland training for them, 25,000 copies distributed to hockey coaches all across North America. I also started and ran their North American demo and introduced rollerblades into the cross country and downhill ski markets. I did not begin working as a lawyer until 5 years after earning my law degree. Within 6 years I started my own firm “Middlebrook Law” and up until my retirement in January 2017 the company was annually named one of the best lawyers in Minnesota among other nice names.

Why even bandy and what’s in the 44 years of your bandy records?
-I was there the night the Swede Gunnar Fast first introduced bandy into Minnesota in December 1980. One of founders of first US Club, The Bandolier.

Hans Nordén, chairman Härnösands AIK, Chris and Gunnar Fast, coach Skövde BK.

-I won 14 US/Gunnar Cup championships as a player and 4 as a coach. Won 13 North American Cup championships as a player and 2 as a coach, First North American to play for a Swedish team, Skövde 1983-84. First true bandy professional in the world, Härnosands AIK 1985-86. 173 international matches with US. Captain of the national team 1982-97. Player coach US National team 1987-89, Head coach 1999-2005 and 2008-2011. Team Leader 2012 to present. Head coach for the US women’s  team 2021-present. Head coach US U15 boys team 2005-2007. Assistant Coach US Boys U17 in 2017. Founder of North American Rink Bandy Cup (1987) and US women’s summer rink bandy league (2023) and US women’s North American Rink bandy Cup (2024). ABA Board member since 1982. ABA President 1992-1996 and 2004-2022. President Minnesota Bandy Federation 1984-1992 and Member of FIB Olympic Committee since 2022.

Is there any place in your life for other passions?
-Beside bandy and family it is writing of course, photography, fishing, reading, dogs including my big guy Seger and also gardening.

The Swedish Hockey legend Ulf Sterner, the first European to play in NHL signed to Chris, the first US bandy player in Europe.

In 2019 “The Bandy Chronicles” was published. It was 118 short stories about his then 40 years in bandy. The short story style of that book was inspired by a book he read “Soccer in Sun and Shadow”.

-I am not so interested in stories about people’s personal bandy experiences or memories unless they are someone who are either well known or there is something that I feel would connect with the potential overall readership of the book.

-My expectation is that it will take me two years to gather all the information for the stories, to write the stories and to ultimately publish the book. I have an editor, the same person who edited my previous two books, The Bandy Chronicles and The Girl Who Played Hockey.

I am sure The Song of Bandy will give many bandy lovers around the world some exciting moments and stories from the bandy thru the years. Are there already stories in your head that will be included in the book?

-The 1876 game held in the Crystal Palace in England. The first international match in 1892 between Bury Fen and the Dutch team. The royalty that has played bandy including Tsar Nicholas, Crown Prince Wilhelm, the Swedish Royal Family, Charles Darwin and even Princess Kate swinging a bandy stick. Was the 1913 7 on 7 World Championships held in Davos actually hockey and not Bandy?

Chris Middlebrook in action 1982

-The Soviet Union playing bandy in the 1928 Spartakiad Winter Games in Oslo. The game between Forsbacka and Köping in Sweden where the ice broke and players went into the water. The games during World War 2 and the Winter War, Finland vs Sweden, plus in occupied Norway. Finland winning the World Championship in 2004 for the first and only time including an amazing comeback and an unbelievable winning goal in Over Time.

The 1952 Olympics with bandy played. Bandy in Murmansk, above the Arctic Circle. Women’s Bandy in the beginnings. Bandy stories from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, China and now India. Somali Bandy. October 1981 when the US played their first international match vs Ljusdal, etc, etc.

I have understood it is important for you to get help from bandy friends around the world when writing this book?

-I have asked bandy people from many different countries to help with potential stories and am certain that more people will step up with ideas.

-It is essential to emphasize that I am extremely reliant upon the help of others in producing this book, both in finding good stories and in helping to fill in enough details to make it a story and not just a historical fact or note. This book is in essence a major collaboration which will involve many people, says Chris.

-It will go into great details in story mode of some of the historical events, include non historical events of interest and also be presented in a enjoyable read manner. It is my hope that the book will be interesting and also informative, not only to established bandy people but also to those newly joining from other countries than the bandy community. It is also my hope that the book could have some small influence on ultimate decision making for bandy’s inclusion into the Winter Olympics. There is no question that the inclusion of bandy in the Winter Olympics would have tremendous positive impact on the funding and growth of bandy, including here in the US. There is also no question in my mind that bandy is both worthy and deserving of a place in the Winter Olympics.

You have been an important person in the bandy in USA for a very long time. In what direction is the US Bandy, men and women, developing?  

-US Men’s Bandy has remained strong and stable for over 4 decades. We have a solid 6 team elite league with both great competition and camaraderie between the teams and players. There is no question that we would be able to expand if we had more than one big bandy arena. As it stands now there is no additional bandy ice plus the cost per hour will be $450 next season. One of the motivators of our high level players is international competition. Unfortunately since 2019 there has been only one men’s World Championship. US men’s bandy is also in an interesting position internationally in that our team struggles to compete in the A pool but is too strong for the B pool. Even so, our players prefer the A pool.

US Women’s team after game against Sweden 2024

We can follow the improvement the US women’s team is experience right now. That must be a big positive part of the bandy development in USA?

-Our women’s program is on the rise. Two seasons ago we had two women’s teams for the first time, Sisu and Mammoth, both who play in the men’s first division. This season our intent is to add a third team and have a separate women’s league for the first time. This summer will be the second season of the US women’s rink bandy league, with 4 teams competing. In September the first ever Women’s North American Rink Bandy Tournament will take place, also with 4 teams. We are attracting more and more former high level hockey players to our program. The results speak for themselves. We beat Finland and had the mighty Sweden down 2-1, 44 minutes in to the game, Chris continues.

Meeting Japanese women’s team in Oslo 2020

Your experience of bandy is spanning over 44 years. In this large memory bank, there must be events and funny moments that are etched more than others?

-It is more memories than i could count but one of my most  funny moments was in Irkutsk 2014 World Championship. We were playing Norway and it was -55 Fahrenheit (-48,3 C) with the windchill. So cold that during play the ball broke in half. No one had ever seen this before. The game stopped for a couple of minutes while players from both teams held the two pieces of ball for photos.

-My most memorable moment was at the World Championships in Oslo in 1985 when we played the Soviet Union for the first time. I had played ice hockey with and against many of the Miracle on Ice US hockey players and was a child of the Cold War. To stand with and shake hands at center ice as US Captain with the Soviet Captain, Viktor Shakalin with CCCP on his chest, with the referees for the coin toss was surreal.

-The most surprising moment/event was playing against 7 time defending Swedish champion Boltic, who had 7 players in the World Championship Swedish national team. In the 1984 World Cup in Ljusdal. I was the libero for US team Bagheera. The predictions for the final score went from 15-0 all the way to 25-0. At halftime the score was 1-1. The final score was 2-1 to Boltic. I believe the greatest near upset in the 200 year history of bandy, says Christ with a smile on his face.

Written by Kjell Anderstedt.

If you want to send your own moments and memories from your life with bandy that can create reader interest in others, then write an email to Chris with your story