As a youth hockey team from Finland skated against teams from China, Japan and Nassau, Frans Nielsen couldn’t help but reflect on his own youth hockey career.
Nielsen isn’t from Finland, but he is Scandinavian and can identify with the experience the Finnish and international kids are having. As a youth hockey player, Nielsen and his hometown team from Herning, Denmark travelled to Toronto to participate in exhibition matches against Canadian and international teams.
“It’s a cool experience, just coming over from Europe,” Nielsen said. “I remember watching a [live] NHL game and that was probably the biggest thing about the trip.”
Nielsen only attended two NHL games as a kid, both while coming to North America for the exhibition tours. During the 2015 Lighthouse Tournament, the teams were all invited to watch the Islanders 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, likely a first for many of the participants. Nielsen knows first-hand what that experience can mean to a young, international hockey player.
“I remember everything from those games,” Nielsen said. “We can’t see it every day like kids over here can do, so getting over here and watching your idols on the ice and the game, it was a big experience and a dream for everyone.”