|National federation||Danmarks Ishockey Union|
|IIHF since||April 27, 1946|
|Top league||Metal Ligaen|
|Current champion||SønderjyskE Ishockey|
Denmark is a country in Northern Europe. Copenhagen is the capital and largest city.
|Metal Ligaen||1954||-||Top-level national competition|
|Danish Division 1||1961||-||Second-level national competition|
|Danish Division 2||-||Third-level national competition|
|Danish Cup||1988||-||National cup competition|
|Danish Women's Hockey League||1994||-||Top-level women's competition|
|Danish junior competitions||-||Various junior competitions|
History of hockey in Denmark
Bandy debuted in Denmark in 1895 when it was added to the KSF Copenhagen sports club's program. In 1907, KSF played a bandy match against IFK Malmö on Peblinge Lake (where all the early bandy/hockey matches took place) in Copenhagen in heavy rain. The club is also known to have participated in the bandy tournament at the 1909 Nordic Games. They lost 3-0 to AIK IF and 5-2 to Polyteknikkojen Urheiluseura. The Dansk Bandy Union was also created in 1909 and Denmark again entered a team in the 1917 Nordic Games. The Danes were thumped by Stockholm 13-0 and Västmanland 16-0 in the third place game.
Denmark's transition to hockey started in 1922 when three countrymen (Vilhelm Wolfhagen, Einar Middelboe and Ove Schlichtkrull) went to St. Moritz for the European Championships, where they participated in an exhibition bandy match, but saw that ice hockey was likely a better fit for Denmark than bandy. KSF disbanded their bandy section in 1924 and waited for a cold winter to start playing ice hockey. The Dansk Bandy Union also ceased operations that year.
In 1929 Danish ice hockey got their first international visit when a Swedish team from Sodertalje visited the Danish capital Copenhagen and demonstrated the game. The first game against international opposition came later that year when a combination of players from Copenhagen played against the Swedish team IFK Malmo (their B team). They played a very friendly game on a bad sheet of ice that ended in a 2-2 tie.
Mild winters (after 1929, none were suitable for hockey playing until 1940) slowed the development of the game. It wasn't until the late 1930s that ice hockey got a boost thanks to several enthusiasts who came from Latvia and Finland. Especially the Latvian brothers (with Danish roots) Erik, Jorgen (the "father" of Danish hockey who established KSF's ice hockey section in 1938) and Torsten Hviid who came from Latvia in the 1930s had a great deal to do with Denmark's ice hockey development. They kept the ice hockey interest alive in Denmark during the 1940s.
Malmo BI traveled to Copenhagen to play KSF Copenhagen on January 7, 1940. The Swedish side won 3-2 and later thrashed KSF 13-1 in the return match in Malmo a week later. On January 17, 1941, Malmo BI defeated KSF 10-2. Subsequent games were played in 1942 (where a Copenhagen combination beat Malmo BI 3-2) and 1943 (a 4-1 win for KSF over a Malmo team).
Denmark did not join the IIHF until April 27, 1946. The Danmarks Ishockey Union was founded three years later, in 1949, replacing the ice hockey section of the Danish Winter Sports Federation as the sport's governing body. Knud Tonsberg, who at that time owned Denmark's largest travel agency, became its first president. He did a lot for the Danish hockey during the years that he was the president. He was responsible for giving Denmark its first artificial rink in Esbjerg in 1959. He resigned in 1967.
In 1946-47 there was a Scanian-Danish Tournament played. KSF participated as did Rungsted IK, which had been established in 1941 and played at a small pond, Vallerød Gadekær. KSF also played against the Tilburg Trappers in 1947, losing 6-5. The following year (1947-48) a mini three-city tournament between Växjö, Malmö and Copenhagen was staged with Växjö emerging victorious.
The first Danish championship was held during the 1954-55 season. Of note, the 1956 final held on a frozen-over tennis court in Hørsholm. Playing conditions were poor during the decade, and no championships were held again until 1960. KSF had several wealthy members, one of whom donated a set of wooden floors to replace the telephone poles previously used as boards at the Peblinge Lake. Knud Lebech, a carpenter by trade, would then construct the boards when the lake was frozen. This was not ideal as he would then have to haul away the boards when the weather warmed enough to melt the ice.
It was only in the 1960s that hockey really began to develop in Denmark. At one point there were around 30 clubs around the country. The opening of several artificial rinks helped grow the game. Along with the Esbjerg and Østerbro (KSF's home arena) rinks, other indoor arenas were constructed in the 1960s in Gladsaxe, Herning and Aalborg, but many teams still played outdoors. During the 1970s Danish hockey suffered from great economical problems despite strong interest and attendance at matches. In later years it has become better thanks to some strong sponsors.
The Danish league, presently known as the Metal Ligaen for sponsorship reasons, currently contains 10 teams. The Danish Division 1 operates as the second level of ice hockey in the country. The Danish Cup, Denmark's national cup competition, was first played in 1988, and has been held annually since the 2001-02 season.
The Danish National Team's international debut wasn't a pleasant one. They had to play against Canada in their opening game of the 1949 World Ice Hockey Championships in Stockholm (Sweden). Denmark lost 47-0, a record score internationally that would stand for almost 40 years.The Danish goalkeeper in that game, Fleming Jensen looked back at the game with some irony, and said that he should have saved at least three of the goals.
In the next game the Danish team lost once again by a huge score, this time to Austria "only" 25-1. The historic goalscorer of the first Danish goal was the Latvian born Jorgen Hviid who together with his brother Erik probably were the best Danish players in that tournament. The most famous urban legend from that game was that the Austrian goaltender made a bet with his teammates that he would shut-out the Danes. After Austria had put the game out of reach, the Austrian defensemen began playing loosely in their own zone, allowing the Danes to slip one in the net. In the third game Denmark lost 8-3 to Belgium with all three Danish goals coming from the stick of Jorgen Hviid. Hviid was the most experienced Danish player and had spent time playing in Latvia, where he was a two-time champion there with Union Riga in 1932 and 1933.
The results weren't surprising considering the fact that the Danish players hadn't practiced on ice the whole year. Denmark came back to the international scene again in 1962 (playing in the B Pool in Colorado Springs) where they played much better, even though they lost all five of their games.
Next year in 1963 Denmark registered their first international victories. The games were played in Stockholm (Sweden) where Denmark played in the C-Pool. Denmark beat Bulgaria 5-4, the Netherlands 4-1 and Belgium 8-3. For the rest of the 1960's and 70's Denmark played in the C-Pool with one exception (1979 B-Pool).
Denmark arranged their first World Championship tournament (C-Pool) in 1977 (Copenhagen); the tournament was a success and 6,500 vocal Danish supporters saw the deciding game vs Italy. Denmark had to win the game to advance but only managed to get a tie. Some of the Danish players were so disappointed that they cried. 10 years later in 1987 Denmark and Copenhagen hosted another World Championship (C-Pool). This tournament also was a success when over 5,000 spectators filled the Brondby arena for a lot of the games. The only negative thing was that Danish TV couldn't show any of the games because the players jerseys had sponsor names on them (Danish law didn't allow advertising on TV). The Danish team had three players that played league hockey in Sweden. Heinz Ehlers, Soren True and Jesper Duus. These three players were a big reason why Denmark finished in second place and advanced to the B-Pool. In Heinz Ehlers (who was voted the best forward) they had a good player for years to come.
Some of the Danish games were very exciting. In the 6-4 win vs Hungary, the Danish team trailed 4-0 well into the second period. Against Yugoslavia the Danish team managed to tie the score with 4 seconds left of the game and got a 6-6 tie. The never-say-die attitude of the Danish players could largely be credited to the Canadian and American trainers Frank Barth and Dana Barbin who were really good at "psyching" up their players.
The Danes spent the entire 1980s playing in the C Pool, with the exception of 1989. They qualified for the B Pool in 1992 and spent an entire decade there, before finally making its return to the top level of the World Championship for the first time since 1949 in 2003, when they finished in 11th place. They have participated in the top division every year since then. The country has never qualified for the Olympics.
Some of the best Danish players throughout the years have been the Hviid brothers and son Jesper, the Canadian players Craig Chapman, Benny Pedersen and George Galbraith who all have represented Denmark internationally. Other players including Nils Schak, Sven Anderson, Henrik Fabricius, Keld Bjerrum, Fritz Nielsen, Bent Hansen, Egon Kahl, Steen Schou, Per V.Jacobsen, Soren Gjerding, Steen Thomsen, Per Holten Moller, Frank Moller, Carsten Nielsen, Tommy Petersen, Lars Pagh, Ivan Hansen, Soren True, Mads True, Jesper Duus, Jens Nielsen, Heinz Ehlers, Henning Ludvigsen, Michael Widenborg and Jesper Damgaard are also worth mentioning.
The women's national team first participated at the IIHF European Women Championships in 1989. Their best result at the now-defunct competition was a bronze medal in 1991. They first took part in the IIHF World Women's Championships in 1992, with their best finish being 7th place in their first appearance. They have not yet managed to qualify for the Olympics.
Special thanks to Patrick H. for supplying information on this country.