COPENHAGEN – Jesper Damgaard, one of the best players in the history of Danish hockey, has announced his retirement. The 35-year-old national team captain has been suffering from post-concussion symptoms.
The Danish Ice Hockey Association announced Damgaard’s decision on Monday, March 28. The defenceman has been a dominating force for the Danish national team, having taken part in 17 IIHF World Championships on various levels.
Damgaard has played in all eight top-division IIHF World Championships since Denmark was promoted to the elite group in 2003 and was team captain in the four last world tournaments.
He played in 256 national team games for his country during which he scored 45 goals and added 69 assists. In the 47 top-division IIHF World Championship games, Damgaard recorded ten goals and 14 assists.
“This was a very difficult decision,” Damgaard said in the association statement. “But I have been thinking about this for quite some time and I have decided to do what is best for my family and for my future.”
“I gave it a last chance and things have actually gone well on the ice, but lately I have had problems focusing during practices and I have suffered from bad headaches afterwards and this became the main reason for my decision.”
The decision was taken in consultation with national team doctor Per Albaek. Damgaard could only play in 13 games for Swedish second-tier team Malmö Redhawks this season due to the concussion-related problems. Over his career, Damgaard has sustained at least several concussions.
“Jesper made an honest effort during the national team training camp to see if he could play in his 18th World Championship for his country and it shows how big his heart is for Denmark and the game of hockey,” said national team coach Per Bäckman.
“But life after hockey is so much more important so it was a correct decision that he took. Jesper can be very proud over his career. He has been a role model in Danish hockey, both on and off the ice and he has been part of elevating Danish hockey to the level where it is today.”
The Danish Ice Hockey Association has announced that it will have a ceremony for Damgaard prior to the national team’s last exhibition game before Slovakia 2011 on April 26 in Vojens, when Denmark plays France.
“This is the least we can do for Jesper,” said Team Denmark General Manager Kim Pederson in the association release. “This is a huge loss for the national team as we always have had a great relationship with Jesper.”
“It is very sad that a player has to quit the game because of a head injury. It emphasizes once more the importance to act against hits to the head, both in Danish and international hockey,” said Pedersen.