TAMPERE, Finland – April 26, 2003
In 2003 Denmark was back in the elite pool of the IIHF World Championships after 54 years. Last time the Danes played with the big boys was in Stockholm 1949 where the Scandinavian country lost 47-0 to Canada, the most lopsided score ever in men's top group competition. With very few exceptions, all media previews prior to the Danes' opening game on opening day against Team USA in Tampere was on the 47-0 scoreline 54 years earlier. What else was there to write about Danish hockey?
In just over two hours the perception of Danish hockey would change dramatically. Bo Nordby Andersen's first goal after six minutes raised only a few eyebrows. But four minutes later, Kim Staal got the second and when defenseman Jesper Damgaard made it 3-0, the Americans were visibly shaken – and there was no way coming back. It was 4-1 after two periods and when Staal got his second for the game to make it 5-2, the '47-0-ghosts' from 1949 had vanished. Denmark had become a legitimate hockey nation.
Team USA never recovered from the loss. The Phil Housley-led U.S. team dropped the remaining preliminary round games to Switzerland and Russia and headed for the relegation round. It was the first time since 1983 that the U.S. was under threat to be sent down to a lower division and despite winning the relegation round in Tampere, the eventual 13th place was the lowest that an American team ever finished in the World Championship.
Denmark's win was far more than a one-game wonder. It was rather an indication of the most improved development program rising through the IIHF-ranks. Six days later the Danes tied eventual world champion Canada 2-2. Since Finland 2003, Denmark has not been out of the top division. For the first time ever in 2007-2008, Denmark will be represented in the top divisions in all three categories, men's, U20 and U18. In 2006-2007, Frans Nielsen became the first Dane to score a goal in the NHL and Lars Eller became the first Dane to be selected in the first round of the 2007 NHL-draft when the St. Louis Blues picked him as 13th overall. Some of the most talented young players in the Swedish pro league are Danes and look for them to improve the Danish national team even more.
But as new chapters will be written in the history of Danish hockey, the game on April 26, 2003, will always be remembered as the day when everything started.
As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, www.IIHF.com is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.
The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.
These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.