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Ehlers: Denmark qualifying for 1st Olympics 'one of the best feelings'

Darcy Finley / National Hockey League / Getty

Words can't quite describe just how proud Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers was to help his home nation of Denmark qualify for its first-ever Olympics.

"It was emotional. It was one of the best feelings I've ever had," Ehlers said.

Ehlers led the way for Denmark with nine points across three qualifying games. He topped it off with a breakaway snipe with just over three minutes left in a contest against Norway.

The goal helped lift his team to a 2-0 victory and a major historical achievement. Denmark joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1946 and, after 76 years, the team will get its first taste of the Olympics in Beijing.

"The growth that has happened the last six or seven years has been pretty incredible. (Denmark) made the quarterfinals at the World Championship in 2016, we had the World Championship in Denmark in 2018, and at this year's World Championship, we beat Sweden for the first time ever. Now we're going to the Olympics," Ehlers said.

"What we're trying to do here with this team is make hockey bigger in Denmark."

Ehlers was pleased with his Danish teammates' dedication over the summer. The group met for four three-day camps as a way to train and grow as a unit.

"I'm really proud of what we've been able to do, but I'm even more proud of the commitment from the guys we had in the locker room," the 25-year-old said. "They become - as in Winnipeg - brothers to you pretty quick."

A decision on whether NHLers will be able to compete in the 2022 Olympics is reportedly looming, but at least the Danes booked their seat at the table with Ehlers' help.

"The waiting sucks. This is a dream come true for me and for a lot of other guys. ... We want to be able to call ourselves Olympic athletes," Ehlers said, according to Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press.

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