Danish defenseman and national team captain Jesper Damgaard has finally decided to hang up his skates prior to the 2011 World Championships. At 35 years of age, Damgaard played 256 games for the national team and took part in no less than 17 World Championship tournaments. He scored 45 goals and 69 assists and was a steady, veteran presence on the blueline. His 256 games for the national team and 17 World Championship tournaments are monikers that have earned him the affectionate nickname “The Record Man” in Denmark. The 17 World Championship tournaments are a tied world record and Damgaard was looking to claim it for himself in 2011 with his 18th tournament.
The following is a minor look at the career one of the great unsung heroes of international ice hockey and a major cog in the growth of Danish ice hockey. The quotes are taken from press releases as well as the Associated Press.
While Jesper Damgaard's career has won him much praise, it regrettably has also taken a heavy toll on his body. He suffered no less than 5 concussions, the latest of which was in October of last year, that has since kept him out for the season with the Malmö Red Hawks. Continued symptoms and the advice of several physicians finally convinced him it was time to go.
“It has been one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. There are still symptoms when I train really hard. And you have just got to make the call that it has got to stop. My retirement is definitive. I would have liked to play for another year but when you have been out for this long, it is the body’s way of saying it is at an end.
Damgaard’s career took him to Sweden, Germany and Switzerland, before he came back to enjoy a brief stint with Rødovre in his native country. After only a year, however, he went back to Malmö, the club that first traded for him from Herning back in 1993. Since then, he has always had strong ties to the country. It is there he now fittingly ends his career and looks to begin a new one.
I have had a career I did not dare to dream of when I went to Sweden 18 years ago. But there comes a time after hockey, and I have just started as an apprentice carpenter.
More than anyone else, Damgaard bore witness to the growth of Danish hockey and to the growth of the Danish national team to its current level. It was the development of a small closely knit group who would stay at low price motels, spend days in cheap bus coaches on their way to and from games and play in cheap tournaments, into the national team which now plays in the A-group at the IIHF World Championships and has beaten such ice hockey powers as Canada, the USA, Russia, Slovakia and Finland. For all its ups and downs, the national team could always rely on him and his consistency. Damgaard himself looked back at some of the ups and downs the team has been through throughout the last 2 decades.
I was there when things looked the worst. When we lost all eight games at the B-World Championships. And I was there when we moved up to the A-group and beat the US 5-3. The culmination of my career was probably last year where we met Sweden in the quarter finals at the World Championships. Especially since I have played there for 12-13 years.
The coach of the Danish national team, Per Bäckman offered these words for the veteran captain.
Jesper can be extremely proud of the great career he has had. He is a fantastic role model, not only on the ince, but also as a leader outside of it. He has helped lift Danish ice hockey to the level where it has at today, and he has made other player better. There are a few like him in the world of sports.
In recognition of his service and career, the Danish Ice Hockey Union has decided to formally retire Jesper Damgaard’s jersey number of 7. He will be sorely missed.
Thank you, Jesper, from all of us Danish hockey fans, few that we are, for all your years of service Even when things were tough and there seemed to be no end in sight, you never hesitated to lace up the skates and put on that red and white jersey. Even while there were those who laughed at you for doing so. Your perseverance, pride in representing your country and joy of playing will always remain an inspiration. May you enjoy your new career and good health.
Career statistics from Elite Prospects.