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Photos: Burnaby experience 'fun and different' for Danish hockey team

The Esbjerg U16 Ice Hockey Club's Pat Quinn Classic appearance has been two years in the making.

Pat Quinn Classic organizers rolled out the red carpet for the first-ever European hockey team to compete at its Burnaby tournament.

Esbjerg U16 Ice Hockey Club (EIK) of Denmark was formally welcomed and celebrated Thursday night, Dec. 28, ahead of its second contest of the 2023 event.

This included a reception with community leaders like Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, as well as a ceremonial face-off by Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks alum and former player with the Danish national men's team.

The trip has been two years in the making for EIK, which travelled nearly 7,500 km over two flights from Denmark for the occasion.

For many of the young athletes, this may be the one opportunity to visit or compete in Canada. The team is said to regularly play three days a week back at home, and enter tournaments in neighbouring nations.

"It’s really fantastic because in Denmark, hockey is a small sport," explained Jesper Brieuc Bærentsen, the delegation leader for the Danes.

"We wanted to come to Canada because it is really the home of hockey."

"It was fun and different," added EIK centre Mikkel Poulsen after playing the first preliminary match Thursday morning. "It was a little more physical game than we're used to."

The North American-style of hockey, and possibly some jet lag, has been a big challenge for EIK, giving up 12 goals in each of its first two games at the Classic.

EIK has one more preliminary match, but regardless of how they finish, the players are humbled to simply be part of the annual event.

"We have been having a good time at the hotel and around Burnaby, it’s been very nice," said defenceman Kasper Tang Jensen. "On the ice, there’s a lot of energy and the game is very fast. The rinks here are smaller."

"It’s great experience and a lot of fun with these guys," added EIK winger Thoke Heinsen. "I am so happy that we made the trip here."

EIK is one of 20 international clubs at this year's Pat Quinn Classic. The other 19 are from the United States: Alaska, Washington, California, Colorado and Nebraska.

There are nearly 60 total teams, including seven from Burnaby, across multiple age divisions eyeing the 2023 trophies and scholarships.

For more information and a complete schedule, you can visit the Pat Quinn Classic website.