The Danish national team captain has plenty on her plate as her country returns to the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship – for the first and only time since 1992 – in Nova Scotia (6 to 16 May). At Truro’s Rath Eastlink Community Centre, Denmark will join Hungary as newcomers in Group B, which also features the Czech Republic, Germany, and Japan. This tournament will be the first IIHF women’s competition since March 2020 when the pandemic caused a wave of cancellations of IIHF events.
But there’s more. This fall (11 to 14 November), the Danes will battle the Austrians, Germans, and another team to be determined in Fussen, Germany for a coveted spot at the 2022 Olympics. Jakobsen and her teammates hope to break new ground by representing Denmark at the Winter Games in Beijing (4 to 20 February).
Jakobsen, 29, has waited a long time for these opportunities. The two-way forward – a six-year veteran with Djurgarden Stockholm in Sweden’s SDHL – can even find a silver lining in the delays caused by the pandemic: “Obviously, all this COVID-19 stuff is what it is. But if you have to see it in a positive way, we got an extra year of training. For sure, that’s something that’s going to benefit us, and we’re going to try to take advantage of it.”
“That was a good test for us,” Jakobsen said. “I think in the first game, we were at least as good as they were. It was also good because it was on a smaller ice surface, just like we’re going to have when we get to Canada. The biggest thing is for us to adjust to the smaller ice and faster pace. It was kind of like a wake-up call for the Czechs, because I think we can surprise. In the second game, it’s not an excuse, but we’ve only been together since Wednesday [31 March], skating and doing some testing. Around the last 10 minutes, you could tell we were getting a bit tired and playing sloppy, all those little things. So that’s something else for us to work on.”
The 170-cm, 71-kg centre headlines a Danish leadership group that includes forwards like Nicoline Sondergaard Jensen, 28, and Josefine Hoegh Persson, 26. In March they helped Lulea earn a 3-1 semi-final series victory over Djurgarden before defeating Brynas for a third straight Swedish championship. Forward Josephine Asperup, 28, and defender Malene Clarin Frandsen, 25, both of Malmo Redhawks, are also key Danish pieces in Sweden.
“We’ve been a family for a long time,” Jakobsen said. “We’re super-excited to be at this point and do this together. Our strength, really, comes from the whole group, the whole team.”
2020/21 was a strong season for Jakobsen despite facing pandemic hurdles. Djurgarden, which played with no fans present at the 8,094-capacity Hovet rink, had some COVID-19 cases, including Jakobsen, who was briefly sidelined in February. Nonetheless, the Aalborg native put up 15 goals and 21 assists in 34 games. It was the second-most points she’s ever scored in an SDHL season (19+32=51 in 2017/18).
“I love the city of Stockholm,” Jakobsen said. “It’s close to home when I want to go home. And obviously I love the organization. They support the women’s side. I’ve created some good friendships, and we won a championship in 2017. They have great support, and it’s just growing every year. That’s something I want to be part of.”
Denmark’s Swedish head coach is someone with whom Jakobsen enjoys a long history. Elander, 61, was a University of North Dakota associate head coach when Jakobsen majored in kinesiology and suited up for the women’s hockey team there from 2011 to 2015.
In IIHF circles, Elander is best-known for shepherding the Swedes to a shocking silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, where they upset the Americans in a 3-2 semi-final shootout. More recently, the U.S.’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson credited him with teaching her the dazzling “Oops! I Did It Again” series of dekes – named after the Britney Spears song – that she used to score the Olympic gold medal-winning shootout goal on Canada’s Shannon Szabados at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
“Peter cares a lot about the person and not just the player. When he recruited me for North Dakota, he was a big reason I went there. Obviously, he was European, and there were some other European girls. That makes a big difference when you come from the same culture. But with Peter, he’s a great coach, but an even better person. He tries to ask every single one of us: ‘How are you doing today? What can I do for you?’ I think that’s most important, not just focusing on the hockey side of things all the time.”
At UND, Jakobsen played with the Lamoureux twins. The legendary duo, who captured six IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold medals together, announced their retirement on 9 February. Jakobsen cherishes the time she spent with both Jocelyne and Monique (now Lamoureux-Morando). In fact, during her quarantine in a Nova Scotia hotel room prior to the Women’s Worlds, Jakobsen plans to read their just-released book Dare to Make History: Chasing a Dream and Fighting for Equity (Radius Book Group).
“It was a big honour for me to play with both Joc and Mo,” said Jakobsen. “Their work ethic is just on a different level, and that is something I’ve tried to take with me. Their compete level, even in practice, was just outstanding. That brought our whole UND team together. Those two, along with Michelle Karvinen, are the most fun and talented players I’ve played with.”
So Jakobsen and her teammates must pursue their goal of making the Women’s Worlds quarter-finals in 2021 without a lot of big hockey names. But that’s all right. Leading up to their Truro debut against Hungary on 7 May, the Danes have learned a lot from both the lows and the highs. They got outscored 15-5 in three games at the 2017 Olympic qualifiers in Arosa, Switzerland. Yet at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest, Denmark’s 4-0 win over Norway – sparked by Jakobsen’s two goals – resulted in promotion to the top division.
Knowing that no teams will get relegated this year in Nova Scotia should also enable Elander’s women to feel less pressure. And his captain, who has never shied away from a challenge, can’t wait to get started.
“Our Danish team might not be the most skilled team, but we’re for sure going to be the most hard-working, hard-skating team,” Jakobsen said. “Every time I step on the ice with this team, I’m so proud. We’ve all obviously played on different teams, but there’s a big difference playing on a club team and the national team. If you don’t work hard, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the most skilled players. Even in that first exhibition game against the Czechs, I was so excited, so proud of the girls. Because if we just follow the plan, skate, and work hard, we will go a long way.”