Richard “Bibi” Torriani AwardBorn Holstebro, Denmark, May 6, 1975
For Denmark, the name Jesper Damgaard towers over all others. Not only did the defenceman play in 17 consecutive World Championships, he was a major contributor to the team leaving the lower divisions in 2002 and joining the top 16 teams in 2003, a ranking it has held ever since.
Symbolically, no game was more important than the night of May 2, 2003, when Damgaard captained the Danes to a stunning 2-2 tie with Canada. The last time these teams had played—the last time Denmark was in the top pool—was in 1949, and Canada won that game by an all-time high score of 47-0.
That 2-2 result was no fluke, and Denmark has proved far more resilient than many had thought 10 or 15 years ago. Damgaard played his first games for his country in IIHF events at the U20, in the three-year period 1993-95, when the team was in C Pool. He also made his senior World Championship debut in 1994 in B Pool, and after nearly a decade of trying the Danes finally made it to the top division of the World Championship in 2003.
Damgaard was named national team captain in 1999, while the team was still in B Pool, and he was captain every year thereafter excepting 2006. His eleven years wearing the “C” makes his tenure as leader one of the longest in IIHF history. A smooth skater, he was able to control play and maintain composure during the most pressure of situations.
In all, he played for his country more than any other Dane and is the only player from his country to have his number (#7) retired by the federation. Although he had to retire at age 35 because of concussion problems, Damgaard left the game as a leader, an inspirational figure who brought a world-class level of respectability to his team, and a player who has inspired the next generation of Danes to reach higher. Of that one can ask no more of any player, from any country.