I suppose it’s a valid question – why haven’t there been more Danish hockey players in the NHL? It’s near Sweden, so shouldn’t they play like the Swedes? It’s not tremendously far from Finland and even Russia, so where are the Jari Kurri’s and Valeri Kharlamov’s of Denmark?
Of course it’s also close to Germany and Norway and there’s been no Kurri’s and Kharlamov’s come out of these places either.
The Danes don’t seem to be a hockey-mad country. And if I was in Copenhagen right now, I’d take to the streets and ask the locals why.
They’d say they’re a soccer nation. And they’d mention that they enjoy some fine sailing and cycling and badminton and eating in cafes. Hockey is way down the list. Just like in South Carolina and Louisiana.
Hey you Danes, you can fit hockey in too! Like the Swedes do. Like the German’s are doing. Your country is considered to be one of the happiest countries in Europe. And hockey could make you even happier!
I guess being near hockey countries doesn’t guarantee anything. The US is only a jockstrap throw away from Canada and it’s only natural that a country of over 300 million would produce a substantial variety of great players, as they do down there. Denmark on the other hand has only five million so players are few and far between.
That’s the theory. Until you google Sweden and see that there’s only nine million Swedes and they churn out hockey players the way the Danes churn out smoked herring in their little cafes.
Denmark has produced a whopping seven NHL’ers over the years – Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, Philip Larsen, Frans Nielson, Peter Regin, and Poul Popiel, a guy with a resume of years in the NHL and WHA in the 1960’s and ’70’s but was raised in Canada so it’s kind of cheating.
Last but not least from the list is Lars Eller, a guy who might turn out to be an NHL beauty and make everyone forget Poul Popiel.
Eller has a special look we saw in his few pre-season games and the opener against the Leafs. He plays like he’s been around, which he hasn’t, unless you include 70 games with the Peoria Riverman of the AHL, seven games in a St. Louis Blues uniform (2 goals), and a handful of season in Sweden and Denmark. But he has poise, seems to have big league hockey smarts, skates and makes plays like a young Mats Sundin, and speaks English better than Tiger Williams.
Sure it’s silly to get overly-excited about a player with not much in the way of a resume, and maybe he’ll end up being the Danish version of Benoit Pouliot. But if he blossoms into a real player, he’ll be a crucial and important piece of the puzzle for the Canadiens – a smooth skating, intelligent player with good hands, and thousands of little Danish kids will ask Father Christmas for skates and sticks at that special time of the year.
Maybe Lars Eller will put Denmark on the hockey map.