Easter Sunday night the national Danish television channel Danmarks Radio aired an interview from a visit with Frans Nielsen. Unfortunately, there is no transcript of the interview, but I can provide some of the highlights from the broadcast, as I figured you guys might be interested in some of the things he had to say.
When talking about the Islanders organization, he expressed his commitment towards helping to return the team to its glory days. Many of his feelings towards the team are rooted in the fact that they were willing to take a chance on him and allow him to pursue his ultimate dream of lacing up his skates and playing in the biggest league in the world. He thought back to his NHL debut and how his thoughts at the time were "I'm just going to be happy with one game". So he was. Until he saw the opportunity to build on it. Then the unbelievable happened and the Isles gave him the security of a one-way deal. Many considered him underpaid, but for Nielsen it was the realisation of his childhood dream. A dream he is still living.
Frans also stated he was more than happy with his current contract--though suddenly finding himself a millionaire was very strange, and he talked a little about how team dinners, which could sometimes run upwards of 20,000$ made him a little uncomfortable in the perspective of what that kind of money meant to ordinary people. Danish modesty is still very much engrained in him.
Furthermore, he spoke about how important he felt team chemistry and friendship was, and his efforts towards engaging the team socially outside of the locker room even during the lockout through the first half of the season. He also mentioned that he would ideally like to sign another 4-year contract when the current one runs out, and if it were his decision, I have no doubt he would happily remain an Islander for life. He talked about his playing style and how his defensive play was the most important aspect to him, because when he played well defensively it allowed him to play well offensively
Other things he talked about was how his work ethic was engrained in him by his very first coach who told him “There are maybe 5,000 guys in the world with talent like you. What sets you apart is the work you do”, which is a philosophy he has kept ever since. When asked to give advice to hopeful Danish NHLers it is simply that you cannot get there solely on talent. You have to put in the work and the effort (and even then there is a large amount of luck and the right circumstances falling into place). In a rare moment of self aggrandizement (not meant negatively) his best quote was probably "I'm always going to be the hardest working guy on the ice".
In short, he is living his dream and could not be happier than with life as an Islander (though I’m sure he wishes his numbers were better this year). Every time he laces up the skates and hits the ice, every time he stares down Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos, it gives a jolt of adrenaline. It allows him to challenge himself night in and night out, and the Islanders are the ones who provided him with the chance to meet those challenges. Something he will remain eternally grateful for.
I’m biased as a Dane, but I don’t think there are enough accolades for Frans. Not necessarily for the kind of hockey player he is, though I do love his style of play, but more than anything for the kind of person he is. As a sports ambassador here and role model, he is probably comparable to Roger Federer, though sadly he is not as well known as many of the nationa's soccer players. I don’t know how many of you know this, but among many other charitable positions, he is a good will ambassador for the Danish Make-A-Wish foundation, and has already made one little fan’s dream of attending a game come true. Whatever can be said about him, the fundamental aspect that shines in everything I’ve read and heard from him through Danish media and books is that he always goes the extra mile.
You are all very lucky to have this guy with your organisation for hopefully many years to come. I only hope they will prove enjoyable for all parties.
Happy Easter! everyone
-The Link for a Danish promo on the interview/visit with Nielsen: http://www.dr.dk/Sporten/Ishockey/2013/03/29/200306.htm