International Ice Hockey Federation

Danes making strides

Danes making strides

True sees growth in Danish program

Published 25.04.2017 09:17 GMT-4 | Author Dhiren Mahiban
Danes making strides
Two generations of True: Alexander will take the ice for his third World Juniors today, his father Soren represented Denmark for 17 years. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Soren True’s hockey career epitomizes just how far hockey has come in Denmark over the past 30 years.

Growing up outside of Aarhus, Denmark, True never had aspirations to play in the National Hockey League.

However, that all changed when the New York Rangers selected True in the 12th round of the 1986 NHL Draft.

“I was playing on the junior national team and I got drafted. Actually, at that point in time, I didn't really know what the draft meant,” True said. “Some guy called me up and congratulated me saying that I was drafted. I was like, 'Oh, OK great'.

“I got a letter go to training camp and I thought I had to pay myself, and I couldn't afford to go, so I didn't go. I thought it was like a summer camp thing where you have to pay. I tried that in Sweden: you go up for a week, you skate and you pay to be there. I thought it was something like that: I had to pay for it. There was no way my parents could afford to send me to the U.S.”

True, who spent parts of three seasons playing professionally in North American minor leagues (SJHL, IHL), and had a brief roller hockey career with the San Diego Barracudas can only laugh at himself now looking back on the lack of information available to him as a teenager playing hockey in Europe.

“Thinking back, I was just a kid from another country. I was told I was drafted, I knew about the NHL, but we had one TV station, there was no NHL on TV,” he said. “Hockey was not that big of a sport in my area really. Now I can just think about it and laugh a little bit because now when I look at my own kids, the kids now know all the NHL players, they know everything. They know everything about the draft and how it works. I had no idea what that draft meant.”

In 2003, True was part of the Danish team, which participated in the top division at the World Championship for the first time since 1949. The Danes opened the tournament in Helsinki, Finland by upsetting the U.S. 5-2. Five days later, Denmark shocked the Canadians playing them to a 2-2 tie.

“For being the Danish team, never been in the A Group before, it was quite a proud moment of course for all of us to manage to tie a game against the biggest nation of them all in hockey,” said True, who represented Denmark at the senior level for 17 years.

Since that historic performance, True has seen a change in the way Denmark develops its talent.

“I think the big difference that's happened the last years is the work that has been done at the club level is developed, everything is developing all the time,” said True. “The senior national team going to the A Group - it opens up for things that a small hockey nation where things can really happen.

“I think that's kind of been the starting point for the youth development also to train more, to practise more, to understand that it takes more to establish yourself amongst the best - how you need to be stronger and more fit.”

At the IIHF World Junior Championship, the Danes will participate in the top division for a third consecutive year at the upcoming tournament in Montreal and Toronto.

Denmark defeated Switzerland at both the 2015 and 2016 Under-20 tournaments to advance and to remain at this level. Last year, the Danes nearly upset the Russians in the quarter-finals.

“Two years ago was the first time they managed to stay up and then they did that again last year so now twice in a row they stayed in the A Group,” True said.

“Before that, they've always, when they moved up, they always move down.

“That's also a step in the right direction to kind of not just in the senior level, but also in junior to establish and stay amongst the best at the junior level.”

Last June, a record three Danes were selected at the NHL Draft.

Already this season as many as nine Danish born players have suited up in the NHL, including True’s nephew, Nikolaj Ehlers, who is in his second season with the Winnipeg Jets.

True’s 19-year-old son, Alexander True, is hoping to have his name called at the 2017 NHL Draft next June. The 193 cm (6-foot-4), 80 kg (176)-pound centre is currently in his third season with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

Alexander will also represent Denmark for a third consecutive year at the upcoming World Juniors.

“I think what helps is Alex knows I've played all my life, I've been over there, I've played on the Danish national team for 17 years so he I think he has a lot of respect for my experience,” True said. “Although it's a different time now, at least I can support him and talk to him and prepare him a little bit on going from Denmark and European hockey to North American hockey, the smaller rinks and the style of play.”


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