As was the case with the neighboring country to the south, the disappointing national team of DENMARK was unable to transform a top seed ranking and the accompanying home ice advantage into a valid ticket for the final tournament of the men’s ice hockey competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Soschi, Russia.
Expectations for Olympic ice hockey qualification had soared to unprecedented heights in Denmark, particularly in light of the dramatic improvement demonstrated by the national team in the last decade or so. Indeed, the Danes have been ever present among the top sixteen nations in the top flight at the annual IIHF World Championships since its latest promotion coinciding with the 2003 edition staged in Finland. And the current Swedish coaching staff of trainer PER BACKSTROM and assistant TOMAS JONSSON, the retired defenseman who won two Stanley Cup titles with the New York Islanders as well as an Olympic gold medal with Tre Kronor in 1994, have been able to bring unprecedented results to the national team of Denmark since first combining forces a few years ago.
Denmark, it should be remembered, had enjoyed a tremendous run at the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Germany and posted victories over Finland, the United States and Slovakia (three of the four semi-finalists at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver just a few months earlier) on its way to attaining a first-ever berth in the IIHF WC quarterfinals.
The Danes, however, will be disheartened by the fact that Latvia, whom Backstrom & Jonsson’s charges have defeated twice at annual IIHF World Championships in the last two seasons, did manage to win its Olympic qualifying group at home in Riga and will be taking part in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia.
Denmark right wing JANNIK HANSEN (36) of the Vancouver Canucks, the former ninth round draft pick (2004, # 287 overall) who totaled 16 goals and 39 points after skating in all 82 games during the 2011/12 NHL regular season, plays the puck away from Norway center KRISTIAN FORSBERG (20) of Swedish Elitserien side Mo Do Ornskoldsvik during the 2012 IIHF World Championships – Group S contest at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
Belarus had figured to be Denmark’s most formidable rival for the right to travel to Russia next year going into the XXII Winter Olympic Games – Group F Qualification Tournament in Vojens. But Slovenia stepped up a delivered a crushing blow to the host nation with a 2-1 victory on the second day of the competition. Clearly, the Danes could have done with some of its offensive talent skating in the National Hockey League at present :
DENMARK – major international experience
(7) … 44 ga ….. 8 go … 17 pts … Frans NIELSEN, New York Islanders
(6) … 36 ga ….. 8 go … 20 pts … Peter REGIN, Ottawa Senators
(3) … 23 ga ….. 2 go ….. 4 pts … Philip LARSEN, Dallas Stars
(4) … 22 ga ….. 4 go ….. 8 pts … Jannik HANSEN, Vancouver Canucks
(3) … 20 ga ….. 5 go … 12 pts … Lars ELLER, Montreal Canadiens
(2) … 12 ga ….. 6 go ….. 8 pts … Mikkel BOEDKER, Phoenix Coyotes
(appearances at major international tournaments in parenthesis followed by total games, goals, points)
Considering the standout numbers posted for Finnish elite league club Lukko Rauma (29 ga, 21 go, 33 pts) during the Lock-Out as well as the increased offensive production for the Phoenix Coyotes (25 ga, 4 go, 16 pts) in the NHL this season, it is interesting to wonder what might have been if winger MIKKEL BOEDKER had suited up for Denmark at the Olympic tournament in Vojens … 23-year-old center LARS ELLER of the Montreal Canadiens is another young talent who has already displayed valuable goal-scoring ability for the national team of Denmark but was not able to participate in Vojens and, therefore, will not be making an appearance on ice hockey’s grandest international stage next year in Russia … Five of Denmark’s six players currently skating in the National Hockey League this season (with then-injured center PETER REGIN of the Ottawa Senators being the exception) appeared for the national team at the 2012 IIHF World Championships in Scandinavia last spring.
Denmark center LARS ELLER (81) of the Montreal Canadiens, the first round selection (# 13 overall) of the St. Louis Blues at the 2007 National Hockey League Draft, skates away from Italy’s Canadian-born defenseman NICHOLAS PLASTINO (44) of Swedish second division club BIK Karlskoga during the 2012 IIHF World Championships – Group S contest at the Globe Arena in Stockholm.