By Kevin Gould – Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Coming to Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championships is obviously an experience to be treasured for any hockey player.
Experiencing the Canadian health care sytem up close and personal, well, that’s not part of the plan.
Unfortunately, it was for Mathias From on Thursday, as Team Denmark opened its training camp at the Benson Centre, in preparation for this year’s tournament, which takes place in Montreal and Toronto from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
From fell awkwardly and injured his leg. He was taken to hospital, and officials with the Danish team were still awaiting news on the extent of the injuries in the early evening.
“It doesn’t look good, but we’ll see,” said Team Denmark General Manager Claus Fonnesbech Christensen. “For him, I hope he can play.
“There was a little contact, but not much. I think he just kind of hit a rut. He was very disappointed.’
The loss of From (in the very first practice for the team) would be a huge blow to Denmark.
“He is definitely one of our better players, one of our key players,” said Christensen.
“It’s not like some of the bigger countries, where you can lose one of your better players and just replace him with someone else.”
Denmark, a country which Christensen says has about 4,500 hockey players (male and female) and just 22 rinks, just isn’t that deep, though the GM says: “I think we do have some talent.”
It’s shown on the ice at the past two world junior championships. Both times, the Danes have made it to the quarterfinals, last year losing to Russia in overtime. The previous year, they won their first game ever at the tourney, beating Switzerland.
Last year also marked the first time Denmark stayed in the top tier for the world juniors in consecutive years. In previous years, they had qualified for the top tier, but were then relegated back to group 1A. This will be their third straight appearance in the top division.
“That’s a big thing for us,” said Christensen.
The goals for Team Denmark at the world juniors?
“We don’t talk about winning the tournament,” said Christensen. “We talk about improving year to year, and we’ve done that.”
“Just get in there (single-elimination quarterfinals) and you never know what can happen.”
The team brought 26 skaters to Cornwall, meaning some will not suit up for the world junior tournament.
“We still have some decisions to make,” said Christensen, adding that those determinations are made primarily by head coach Olaf Eller and his staff.
“It’s a batttle every day on the ice. We’ve seen some surprises over the years.
“It’s especially tough if you have to tell a 19-year-old they didn’t make it because it’s their last chance, but that’s sport.”
Olaf Eller is the father of Lars Eller of the Washington Capitals. The team’s goaltending coach, Ernst Andersen, is the father of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Just a couple of NHLers from Denmark. Others include Frans Nielsen of the Detroit Red Wings and Nikolaj Ehlers of Winnipeg.
“I think we have 12 playing in the NHL right now,” said Christensen.