If you didn’t already know from which country Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller hailed, you did after watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals Thursday.
“There are people watching in the middle of the night in a movie theater over in Denmark, because their guy, Lars Eller, is trying to become the first native of Denmark to win the Stanley Cup,” NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick said at the start of the second period.
Brian Poulsen was among those people. The 39-year-old newspaper photographer gathered with roughly 80 other hockey fans at the Atlas Bio theater in Rodovre, Eller’s home town of 37,000 located just outside of Copenhagen, to watch a Danish feed of the game. Poulsen, who used to play hockey with Eller’s two older brothers, said the mood inside the theater was fairly relaxed, perhaps owing to the fact that the puck dropped at 2:22 a.m. local time. The mayor of Rodovre was in attendance, as were a few of Eller’s relatives.
With 7:37 remaining in the third period, Eller broke a 3-3 tie by burying a puck that sat loose after squeezing through Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs. Eller’s seventh goal of the playoffs would prove to be the game-winner, delivering Washington’s first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
“Lars Eller, in the middle of the night in Denmark, has broken the tie,” Emrick shouted.
“Of course everybody got really excited when Lars scored,” Poulsen wrote in a Twitter direct message. “People certainly got out of their chairs and cheered and clapped. It was nowhere close to Capital One Arena. … Some of his family members who were there cheered pretty loud.”
“Too good to be true,” Eller said after the game. “You can dream about it, but it’s writing the best ending to the story yourself. I’ve been a wreck all day. I couldn’t nap this afternoon. But once the puck dropped, I started feeling better and felt more comfortable.”
Poulsen said the theater staff gave out free popcorn, soda and candy after the payment system broke down. Afterward, Poulsen crashed in his office, conveniently located in the same mall where he watched Eller make history, and got about an hour’s worth of sleep.
Poulsen usually watches games on the NHL’s Center Ice package and has considered himself a Capitals fan since Eller joined the team before last season. He said Eller’s run to the Stanley Cup finals has received a lot more coverage in Denmark than when fellow Dane Jannik Hansen went to the finals with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
The big debate among sports fans in Denmark on Friday morning, Poulsen said, was whether Caroline Wozniacki winning her first Grand Slam tennis title at the Australian Open in January or Eller winning the Stanley Cup is a bigger sports achievement. For Poulsen, it’s no contest.
“I can’t wait for him to bring the Cup to Rodovre,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it’ll be pretty crazy.”
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