Tenacious Danes ready for Worlds
by Liz Montroy|13 AUG 2021
Malene Frandsen (left) and her colleagues sing the national anthem after earning promotion at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A.
photo: Laszlo Mudra
The girls sitting in front of Malene Frandsen were captivated as she shared her story. Not only was she a national team defender, but they saw that she understood firsthand the obstacles they faced as girls in hockey, that she recognized the difficult and delicate balance of school and life and sports. 

This opportunity to impart her knowledge on young female players came to Frandsen through a 2018 World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event organized by Danish club Copenhagen Falcons. While it was images of the glowing puck the club used for a glow-in-the-dark scrimmage that made the rounds on social media, the event’s biggest impact came perhaps from the conversations Frandsen was able to have with the girls in attendance.

“I feel so honoured to do that for them because it’s a tough world being a girl player,” said Frandsen. “You have to deal with work, school, stuff like that. I think many girls stop because it has to be hard. We can’t only play hockey here in Denmark, we have to figure out how to make it all work. [I can] show the girls that it can be, so that means a lot to me.”
Malene Frandsen inspires girls at the Copenhagen Falcons.
photo: Copenhagen Falcons
Born into what Frandsen dubs a “hockey home”, she first stepped on the ice at three years old, joining a boys’ team when she was four. But Frandsen initially wasn’t that thrilled about playing hockey.

“When I was small I did not always want to go to hockey,” said Frandsen. “I did not think it was that fun falling all the time. It was a hard sport to learn, but my parents kept pushing, and now I have played for what, 21 years? And that’s crazy.” 

Needless to say, Frandsen’s view of the game has changed significantly since her early days at the rink. She is passionate about the sport and helping Denmark see success on the international stage – and she knows that persistence and perseverance have been key to helping her and the national team overcome obstacles and see results.

Frandsen was 16 years old when she played in her first World Championships tournament nearly a decade ago, in 2012. It was at this tournament that Denmark won gold in Division I Group B to earn promotion to Group A, which they competed in for seven years. This August, for the first time since the country’s first Women’s World Championships in 1992, Denmark will finally be back at the top level of women’s hockey.
Malene Frandsen in action during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Hungary.
photo: Laszlo Mudra
“We are just so excited. We are so so excited,” said Frandsen, who was named Denmark’s Top Player at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A. “We have a feeling that we have nothing to lose, we just have to empty the tank and just do our best. We just have a feeling on the Danish national team that we keep raising the standards, we keep getting better.”

As with many of the players on the Danish team, Frandsen has played both in the Danish women’s league and in another country. She has seen the Danish league continue to make strides towards being a high-level league, but has also experienced a number of benefits by playing in Sweden. To Frandsen, the work being done with Denmark’s league and the number of Danish players competing in Sweden or in the NCAA is proof of the country’s elite doing what they can to raise the standards.

“We are playing and practicing for getting up in the SDHL,” Frandsen said of her Swedish Division I team, the Malmo Redhawks, located just a 30-minute car or train ride from the Danish capital of Copenhagen. She will be returning to the Redhawks (which has a number of Danish national team players rostered) this fall for a fourth season. “We had the team to make it in 2020, but then COVID came, so it’s still a dream for us to reach this league.” 
The top division of the Women’s Worlds and the hunt for promotion to the SDHL are just two of the big moments coming up for Frandsen – Olympic qualification is on the horizon as well. Denmark will face Germany, Austria, and one other team (still to be determined in an earlier round) in November in the Final Olympic Qualification Group D tournament. Regardless of the outcome, Frandsen is proud of her team’s steadfast commitment to each other.

“We have a whole group of girls who just really practise hard,” said Frandsen. “On a daily basis we have school, we have work, we have stuff to do, but people just train and act like they only have hockey. I’m really proud to play on this team because everyone works so hard... We inspire each other, we train together, and it’s just making the hard work a little bit more fun.”

There’s no doubt that this August, this team will inspire more girls in Denmark. So what would Frandsen say now to her country’s young female players if she were to speak to them again?

“Just keep working hard. People will maybe make it tough, being a women’s hockey player. [As female players] we have to believe in us, and don’t think so much about what people think. We just have to keep working hard.”