It all started on Monday of last week, well, no, actually it all started nine months ago. Frans Nielsen and his wife Moa are now parents, and the baby was born in New York last Monday.
Meanwhile back home, the Danish team is gearing up for their Olympic qualifying tournament which starts tomorrow in Minsk, Belarus. This is a winner take all, last chance shot at a berth in the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018.
The Danes are up against Belarus, Slovenia and Poland, and the first two teams are ranked higher than them. Denmark has put together a dream team of every Danish player in the NHL (except Lars Eller, who was unavailable), top players from the KHL and SHL and a few from the Danish league. The full roster just begins with Nielsen as captain.
Nielsen, the highest paid Dane to ever play in the NHL, enjoyed a few days with his new son while he worked on getting the family moved to Detroit. He hit the ice for the first time on Friday, and then left New York for the long flight to Berlin, aiming to arrive at the last minute to join the Danish team for a pre-tournament friendly against Latvia.
There was concern that he would be jet-lagged, unlike the rest of the team that has been working out in Copenhagen over the weekend.
Nielsen, flew on to Riga (there aren't any actual trains in this story), detoured to the Belarus embassy to sort out his visa, and then made it to the rink on time, on about five hours sleep, to play the Latvians.
His timing was impeccable.
In the second period with the score 1-0 Nielsen took a faceoff in the Latvian end and scored right off the draw, silencing the small crowd, breaking the Latvians backs, and leading the team to an eventual, and fairly easy, shutout win 3-0
There are multiple views below beginning at the 37 second mark.
After the game, Nielsen spoke to faceoff.dk, and they reported his feelings on the game [via Google translate]:
He conceded like that both he and his colleagues were rusty in the first 20 minutes.
" But as the game progressed, increased our confidence and hopefully we will be even better on Thursday and Friday. We will meet Belarus and Slovenia, which are better team than Latvia, so we need to lift our game," he added.
"For us it is important to play tighter on the defensive and avoid making mistakes. If we do, we have so much talent on the team, that we will score the necessary goals. But we need not to the other teams free gifts, because we need to make it look nice out there," came from Frans Nielsen.
"But yes, we should like to see ourselves as the favorite to take the Olympic area, although it faces some fucking heavy fighting. Hopefully we grab the chance and get to the Olympics, because I think we are among the world's top eight nations if we put this team," said Frans Nielsen.
Denmark opens the tournament against the home team Belarus on Thursday night, local time. The last time they played one of these qualifiers, they fell just short of winning a place, but this one is the best chance they have ever had.
If they win it, those NHL players have to know they may be winning a prize they can never experience. If the NHL does not choose to participate in the next Olympics, none of them will get to go and represent their country as they so clearly want to.
As soon as the Olympic qualifier is done, Nielsen reports to Team Europe training camp in Quebec City to prepare for the World Cup of Hockey. By the time the NHL season starts, he's going to be in total game shape.