When the Danish national team for them men qualified for the Olympics in august it was amazing. When the women did the same in November it was a sensation. However, it pales in comparison to the first ten days of the 2022 Olympics for Danish hockey which has been nothing but a dream scenario for the Danes with memorable games and wins, and only one minor heartbreak along the way.
The Women Who Belong in the Olympics
Let"s start off with what by far is the biggest sensation on paper. The success of the Danish women"s hockey team. As a nation, Denmark in total and from all age groups has 853 players. Out of those 853 players only around 250 of them are eligible for the national team roster. Yet somehow, with all those limitations, the Danish Valkyries has done the impossible and not only qualified for the Women"s World Championship, which they will even host in 2022, but also made the Olympics.
Even if they had lost every single game that would have been a fantastic achievement and given a lot of girls in Denmark a team to look up to. However, they once again defied all logic and outside one period against Japan, was competitive in every single game of the Olympics. And on the 7th of February 2022, a historic moment happened in Danish hockey happened, when Denmark won their first-ever game at the Olympics over Czechia off the back of a star performance from goaltender Cassandra Repstock-Romme and hard work from every single player.
Laughably enough the win came just hours before Rossi Dimanno’s article about how women don’t belong in the Olympics. An argument that’s laughable by any stretch of the imagination. Especially after the game, Denmark had just played, and the way everyone was reacting to it in the country, from hockey fanatics like myself and others who were watching for the first time. The country was loving the team and it was clear that the Danish team and women"s hockey more than belong in the Olympics! Like I mentioned before in a lot of articles, sometimes the gold medal isn’t everything, and for the Danish players, the gold medal was the ticket to Bejing. Everything after that is a bonus.
The Danish Women’s team is the pioneer in Danish hockey since they are the first team to qualify and had no female Danish players or teams to really look up to. At best they had to look to the 2002 Danish men’s national team, to see how the impossible is possible if you work hard enough. An issue that up-and-coming players from Denmark won"t have since they now can look to this team as potential role models. The standard has been set and it"s absolutely fantastic. On top of that, the exposure from the Olympics has been clear, and if the Danish hockey union can find a way to build off that, the women"s side of the game in Denmark has a chance to grow and become even bigger.
The only downside to the Olympics has been one loss to the Women at the hands of Sweden in their final game in Group B. The Danes had the chances and played well but couldn’t find the back of the net and that meant that they were unable to advance to the quarterfinals, with Sweden going through instead. A great attempt and once again heroic effort, but it wasn’t enough to keep the adventure going. However, despite the heartbreaking loss, the danish women have done the nation proud and done far better than I think anyone imagined.
The Culmination of the Danish Hockey Development
Now for the men’s side of the tournament, Denmark once again came into the tournament as debutants, but with a lot more experience on the bigger international stages. Despite their lack of Olympic appearances they have been a part of the Men’s IIHF World Championships ever since 2003. A tournament that in 2003, included a young Frans Nielsen, who almost 20 years later would score the game-winning goal in Denmark’s first Olympic game for the men’s team. Of course, it was done with his patterned backhand move on a penalty shot late in the first period.
Once again it was against Czechia, and once again it was a major upset. However, this was just part one of what ended up being an unbelievable group stage for Denmark. Not only did they manage to beat Czechia and be very competitive against team ROC, but in their final game, the real testament to the quality of the team happened. In their game against team Switzerland, they not only won 5-3, but they also did it by being the better team on the day. To add to this context, with roughly the same teams, the two had played in May’s World Championship, where Switzerland won 1-0 but kept Denmark to FOUR! Shots in total. A new IIHF record for the lowest amount of shots on the net. In their 5-3 win, Denmark had 30 shots on the net.
This wasn’t enough to secure an automatic spot in the quarterfinal, but instead of Denmark having to play Finland or Sweden, like a lot of Danes had originally feared, it will be a game against Latvia. While on paper it"s an easier matchup, and a good chance for Denmark to reach the quarter-finals it"s going to be far from easy. Both teams are able to play and have good quality down the lineup, so for Denmark, it will be a matter of continuing to play as they have so far. However, one thing that the game against Latvia won"t be able to undo, even with a Danish loss, is the way people seem to have been captivated by the team and hockey. Like the women, this is a new milestone and something to look up to for up-and-coming players, and I do believe the sport in Denmark has a chance to grow even further after this, due to the hype of the team.
Regardless this is the perfect ending for Denmark"s first golden generation with Nielsen, Peter Regin, Mikkel Bødker, and so on, more than likely retiring in the near future. This was their last chance and they have taken it and made the nation proud once again. Just like they have when they continued to set new benchmarks for the younger generation to look up to throughout their careers.
No matter what happens for the rest of the Olympics, this has been a successful tournament and even if the journey of the Danish national journey ends on Tuesday, it’s been a historic and magical tournament for Danish hockey, that will be remembered in all of hockey Denmark, and a bit of the rest of the population. A win on Tuesday and suddenly the interest could turn into outright euphoria in the small hockey nation but regardless of what happens against Latvia on Tuesday, I can only say one thing to both the Danish men’s and women’s national teams. Tusind tak for det fantastisk eventyr!
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