International hockey correspondent Julie Robenhymer spoke with Red Wings center Frans Nielsen regarding his country’s hosting of the World Championship. It turns out that Nielsen’s family is a substantial force in Danish hockey:
When Denmark was announced as the host of the 2018 IIHF World Championship back in May of 2014, Frans Nielsen couldn’t believe it.
“There is no way I ever thought this was possible growing up,” said Nielsen, the first Dane to be drafted into and subsequently play in the NHL. “They were in the C Group when I was growing up. We’ve come a long way and it’s incredible to be a part of. I think we’re all very proud of where we are today.”
Nielsen was eight years old when Denmark advanced to the B Pool, 16 when they advanced to Division I and 18 when they made it to the top division.
He was on that historic team and has been on six more world championship teams since then, but none more special than this one in his hometown of Herning.
“Growing up about five minutes from the rink we’re playing the world championship in…it’s pretty surreal,” the 34-year-old explained. “I did not expect that would ever happen when I was a kid. First, that I’d be playing in the world championship, but also that we’d be hosting it. Never did I ever think that was possible.
“We didn’t have any NHL players when I was growing up. Our heroes were in Sweden. You knew about the NHL so I guess you always dreamed about playing there, but really it was Sweden because you just didn’t think you’d be good enough for the NHL. So Sweden was the realistic goal back then. It wasn’t until I got drafted that I thought I might have a shot at the NHL.”
Robenhymer continues, speaking with Frans’ father, Fritz…