Choose your poision – the Top 8 Swedish style


by Rob Scott

The Swedish ice hockey (Elitserien) regular season came to a thrilling conclusion during the week as the top teams battled for places in the playoffs (slutspel) and the bottom teams tried to avoid relegation. Positions were so tight that almost every goal scored during the final round resulted in a change to the composition of the ladder. The biggest casualty of the night was the potential relegation of the biggest team in the country, Djurgården. By losing in the final round, they slipped below the relegation line and now go into a last gasp qualification series (kvalserien) against 5 other teams fighting for 2 places in the elitserien. If they don’t come through that, Djugården will be relegated for the first time since 1977.

Now, Australia and Sweden have a lot in common. Lots of nature and wildlife, a love of garage sales, car companies going bust, high levels of immigration and xenophobia. And as I was watching Melodifestivalen tonight (the Swedish leg of the Eurovision Song Contest) I was stunned at how much it reminded me of the Big Day Out…(ok, maybe not).

One thing I didn’t realise until this week though, is that, like the AFL, Sweden’s biggest sport also has a Top 8 finals system.

But this is where the similarities end.

Some things in this country are truly and delightfully weird.

My initial discovery of the top 8 turned out to be great news for me as my team Modo, who won the championship in 2007, scraped into eighth position almost on the last play of the night. Not familiar with the workings of the 8, I turned to one of my students to explain who was playing who in the first week of the slutspel. And this is where things went a little hazy…

He said to me:

“No-one knows who’s playing who until the top 3 teams choose who they want to play.”

“Um, Sven (not his real name) did you say, choose”?

Yes. Choose. Under this system, the team who finishes first gets first choice of any team in the 8. After making their choice, the second and third teams choose their opponents from the remaining teams. I almost spat out my rollmop on hearing this news. This is Page-McIntyre and Duckworth-Lewis rolled into one, with a bit of Turps’ Wheel of Fortune thrown in for good measure. RIP Turps.
I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t wait to get home to find out who was playing who.

The decisions made for interesting reading.

Luleå, who finished a clear 1st, chose to play 7th placed AIK. According to their manager, Jonas Rönnqvist, the decision was ‘for travel reasons’, which is odd given that Modo, who finished below AIK, is a couple of hour’s drive from Luleå, compared to the 2 hour flight to play AIK in Stockholm.

Second placed Skellefteå opted to play close neighbour Modo, for the same ‘travel reasons’, which left 3rd place HV71 the final choice. HV71 are living proof that this system works because of last year’s disastrous experience, when, after finishing 1st, they chose to play 8th placed AIK in the first round of the playoffs and lost 4-0! This year, they chose the lowest team available to them, 6th placed Färjestad (and already trail 1-0).

It got me thinking about whether this system would work in the AFL, whether it would change anything, and whether it was fair. The jockeying for positions in the final weeks of the home and away games would certainly be affected, or almost disappear, as there would be little incentive to finish anywhere outside the top 3. The Cats and Hawks would certainly not have met each other in the first week of the finals last year, and I’m sure Collingwood wouldn’t have chosen West Coast first up. It would have made a huge difference to the make up of the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the finals, that is, if anyone could work it out. But what difference would it make? Really? Would love to hear your thoughts.

About rob scott

Rob Scott (aka Haiku Bob) is a peripatetic haiku poet who calls Victoria Park home. He writes haiku in between teaching whisky and drinking English, or something like that.


  1. Wow! Not sure what difference it would make, HB, but it would be an interesting exercise in mind games if nothing else.

    Do you know any real Svens?

  2. It would work up to a point Rob.

    Even if there was a final eight Collingwood would demand to play 18th if they finished on top.

  3. Peter Zitterschlager says

    Incredible system. Not only would I like to adopt it, I’d like to take it a step furher: picking who you get to plasy in the grand final. It would, of course, be the team that’s won only 2 of theoir last 14 appearances on said day. Don”t you just love those numbers!

  4. Peter Baulderstone says

    Stuff their finals system. I want to adopt their names.
    “See you tonight dear, I’m off to the Elitserien”. You’d be half way there while she struggled to work out what you said.
    “You might have beaten us today, but we’ll show you in the slutspel.”
    Might be tough explaining why everyone chooses to play the Dockers in the first round for “travel reasons”. Eddie could claim that the 4 hour flight was equivalent to a week’s altitude training in Arizona.
    I think I’ll try “I’m off to the pub dear – for travel reasons”
    Priceless – thanks Rob.

  5. Dave Nadel says

    I like the idea of the top three teams chosing their opponents. The Pies would have played the Swans in 2010 and 2011. Sydney hasn’t beaten Collingwood home or away for some years.

  6. That’s not even guilt by association Dave. Thats a straight out guilty plea.

  7. Skip of Skipton says

    I like it. A superior system to the McIntyre Final 8 used in the ’90s. There’s no way the Cats (2nd) would have chosen North (7th) as their first up opponent in ’97.

  8. Might not have chosen to go to Adelaide the next week as well Skip and might not have chosen umpires that got intimidated by the local crowd and made a few bloopers.

  9. Skip of Skipton says

    They ‘chose’ to go to Adelaide?

  10. That’s just it. It would change the whole psychology of the finals. Of course, if you had the option, you would most likely choose the worst performed team in the 8. But what if that team had the wood on you? Do you take them on to prove a point, or not? By finishing above them, have you earned the right to avoid them (ie run away scared?)

  11. Peter Baulderstone says

    Those pampered pussies manage to turn every post into a wish fulfilment on how they could, should or would have won even more premierships.
    When too many flags is never enough.

  12. Peter says ‘pampered pussies’,

    William says ‘wasted weagles’

  13. It would certainly add more pressure to the top 3 teams (especially the top team). I imagine HV71 were a target for derision by opposition supporters throughout this year.

    I like the first week, but would need to know how weeks 2 and 3 went. As implied by earlier comments, the mid-90s final 8 system was not particularly liked by anyone.

  14. Much as the current 8 is superior to the Mcintyre version it still has flaws. However remote there is still a possibility that 7 plays 8 in the GF.

    I would prefer a change in the second week so that the two winners from 5 V 8 and 6 V 7 play off and the two losers from 1 V 4 and 2 V 3 play each other. The best team of the bottom 4 replaces the worst team of the top 4.

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