Boedker fittin' in

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Growing up in Denmark, it took some effort for Mikkel Boedker to find a hockey rink.

And when he did, the Phoenix Coyotes rookie had to make the most of his limited time on the ice.

"We have 21 rinks now," Boedker said. "Growing up we had 14. I wouldn't say every little town had one, but every bigger town did. It wasn't too tough to find the ice, the problem was when you went to the rink you would only be allowed to use it for 50 minutes because the figure skaters were out there and there were a bunch of other teams that needed to use it too.

'IT WAS WORTH IT'

"But it was worth it, you were always excited to get to the rink to get to use the little bit of ice that you could. I was lucky to have more than one team to play with and I think that helped me a lot."

Selected eighth overall in last year's NHL Entry draft, Boedker is one of three Danish players currently in the NHL. Born in Brondby, Denmark, located just west of Copenhagen, the five-foot-11, 202-pound winger got too good to develop at home, so he spent two years in Sweden before joining the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League last season.

Boedker is the highest drafted Danish player in history, and going into last night's game against the Edmonton Oilers, was seventh in rookie scoring behind countryman Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks with seven goals and nine assists in 33 games.

"I moved to Sweden when I was 15," said Boedker. "Going through Sweden and then Canada was the best way for me to get here. I was pretty lucky to go and play two years in Sweden and get an opportunity to play with some really good players and learn a lot about the game.

"Then going to Kitchener last year was good, getting to know the North American-style. That was really good and I was fortunate to have such a good team and we were lucky enough to go all the way to the (Memorial Cup) final, but we just lost in the end."

Last night was Boedker's second trip to Edmonton. He took part in the CHL's Top Prospects game held at Rexall Place last season. Along with Hansen and Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders, Boedker represents a rise in the popularity of hockey in Denmark, where soccer and handball are the dominant sports.

"There was something about hockey, it was the feeling I got getting out there on the ice," Boedker said. "It was so different and it wasn't what everybody else was doing. It was different from soccer and handball. I played soccer and I played tennis, but I always came back to hockey and I'm happy to have done that."

CELEBRITY

Boedker has already represented his country on numerous occasions at the international level. He's becoming a celebrity back home with his success at the NHL level.

"Our heart is in the right place and our skill-level is getting better," he said. "The more players we get, the easier it's going to be to be a more competitive team. We've been at the World Championship for the last seven years and that's an indication that we're getting better. We have to give a lot of credit to our system back home. It's not as good as the Canadian system, but we don't have the players to have that kind of system."

Growing up, there were very few Danish hockey players for Boedker to look up to. But as he and his counterparts continue to make a name for themselves at the highest level, they'll pave the way for the next generation.


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