For future growth
by Liz Montroy|02 SEP 2022
Danish players sing their anthem following a win over Hungary.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images

As fans filled Iscenter Nord in Frederikshavn for what would be a history-making match-up between Denmark and Hungary, a group of adults and children crowded at one end of the arena and draped a large red sign over a railing on the concourse. From the ice, Simone Jacquet could make out her jersey number and name written on it in black.

“My family almost never has a chance to see me play, so now they’re all here. It’s just amazing,” said Jacquet. Amongst her fan group were the U9 kids she coaches in Aalborg (a city approximately 45 minutes south of Frederikshavn) and her two daughters, ages seven and four. “The oldest has an idea [of what I’m doing here] and she’s like, ‘I want to do that too.’ It’s just amazing to give something to her.”

Jacquet has spent her entire hockey career playing in the Danish women’s league, mostly for Aalborg but also with brief stints in Herning and for the now defunct Frederikshavn team. She made her national team debut in 2004, with 2022 being her twelfth World Championship event.

“When I started we were in [Division II] and I didn’t think that it was possible that we were getting up in the Top Division, and then also hosting it,” said Jacquet. “I was just really happy, this coming to Denmark, because all the Danes would have a chance to see us on home ice and it’s just big that all the best players in the world are coming here and everyone has a chance to see them.”

Denmark was approved as the host of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in December of 2021, just a few weeks after the Danish women’s team qualified for their first ever Olympics. Denmark is the seventh country to be bestowed this event, with past editions held in Canada, Finland, the United States, Sweden, China and Switzerland.

Hosting an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is not completely new to the Danish – Aalborg was home to the 2016 Women’s Worlds Division I Group A, while five different Men’s Worlds have been held in Denmark, including the 2018 top-division event in Copenhagen and Herning. Holding the Top Division of the Women’s Worlds in Denmark has been something special though.

“I never even thought that [we could host Worlds], and I think when I started playing I was just having fun and just enjoying the games. I never really dreamt of playing on the national team. It’s just an incredible experience, and it has been an incredible year for Danish women’s hockey,” said Sofie Skott. “It’s only been six months [since the Olympics]. We had a World Championship last year, and then the Olympics, and now we are here. It’s just been crazy, there’s always something new to be excited for.”

Skott is one of two players on the Danish roster who are from Herning, the other being Amalie Andersen. Twenty-year-old Skott left Denmark to play abroad for the first time last season, joining the Malmo Redhawks in Sweden’s Division I league. In a few days she moves to the United States to play for the University of Vermont.

“I think today my whole family is coming, my grandparents and my sister and my brother,” Skott said before Denmark’s final game against Germany. “I also had a lot of friends coming from Copenhagen and staying the weekend and it was just special playing in front of friends and family.”

Skott and Andersen are also two of the 11 Danish women who have competed in the NCAA, and the only two on Denmark’s current roster who will be playing in the NCAA this fall. For a country with 702 female players – the fewest out of any of the countries participating in the Top Division – Denmark’s achievements in the last few years have been significant. 2021 marked Denmark’s first appearance in the Top Division since 1992, which was also the year they made their international debut.

The 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship did not end the way Denmark was hoping. Heading into the final minutes of their third period against Germany, the Danes had a trip to Herning to play in the quarter-finals in sight, which the Germans prevented by scoring a goal in the final second of the game. Denmark finished the tournament in tenth, same as in 2021, and will be relegated down to Division I Group A (no teams were relegated last season). Despite this, they improved upon their performance from 2021. This year they took their first ever top-level win with a nail biting 1-0 victory over Hungary, and tightened the gap in their games against Germany and Czechia.

“Our game against Hungary, we just kept going,” said Skott. “It was a 0-0 game, and we just kept fighting and blocking shots and kept going. Then we got a goal and it was just amazing. It’s always a special moment [hearing the anthem], but I was really looking forward to hearing the crowd singing with us.”

The organizing committee and the Danish Ice Hockey Union developed the slogan “For Future Growth” for the 2022 event, which reflects the legacy that Jacquet and Skott hope this event will leave for ice hockey in the country in general and for women’s ice hockey in particular.

“Especially for Denmark, I hope more girls are going to play hockey and think, ‘I can achieve this, I want to do that,’” said Jacquet.

“I hope that we can inspire a lot of young girls,” said Skott. “With people doing interviews and filming, we have a lot of publicity and I hope that it will grow the sport, especially for the girls. When I was young I didn’t have much opportunities. I just hope that with this we can show them that girls can do so much more with hockey too.”

The work to grow the game doesn’t end here. In regards to the national team, Denmark is determined to make their way back to the Top Division to compete with the world’s best, and at the grassroots level, players like Jacquet plan to continue doing what they can to promote the sport. 

“I’m going to keep coaching, and that’s the way I want to go,” said Jacquet. “I want to stay in the sport and make history and make an impression.”