Former UND associate coach Peter Elander in the middle of another Olympic moment
Elander coached Sweden to the biggest women's hockey upset, taught Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson her gold-medal shootout move and now has Denmark in the Games for the first time.
GRAND FORKS — Peter Elander arrived in Beijing for the Winter Olympics carrying some special cargo.
He packed a couple of ping pong paddles and a ball.
Elander taught beginner's table tennis at UND while he served as the women's hockey associate head coach for seven years, and there's a good chance he'll run into some of his old students at the Beijing Games.
Elander is the head coach of the Danish women's hockey team and six of his former table tennis students are playing hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympics — Kristen Campbell (Canada), Susanna Tapani (Finland), Michelle Karvinen (Finland), Josefine Jakobsen (Denmark), Corban Knight (Canada) and Adam Tambellini (Canada).
But there's also business to attend to for Elander, who has played a center-stage role in some of the biggest moments in women's hockey history.
Elander was the head coach of the Swedish Olympic team in 2006, when it pulled off the 'Mirakel.' Sweden upset the U.S. in the semifinals, marking the only time in Olympic women's hockey history that the Americans and Canadians didn't play for gold.
In the last Olympics, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson lifted the U.S. to its first gold medal in 20 years, using a dazzling shootout move she learned from Elander and practiced repeatedly in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"He has a passion for wanting to make players better," said former UND assistant coach Erik Fabian. "He loves the process of getting better and he will do anything to help players achieve that, whether it be Jocelyne with the highways or Lisa Marvin getting back to play (after her injury)."
Fabian said Elander's attention to detail sets him apart.
"The number of highways that he and Jocelyne did. . . she probably never thought that one day she was going to use it in the shootout of the championship game," Fabian said. "But she did it like it was Sunday afternoon at the rink. That's Peter breaking down the details, going through it and consistently doing it."
Elander has already made his mark on this Olympics just by being there. Denmark had never-before qualified for the Olympic Games in women's hockey.
Elander also had some help from one of his former UND players — forward Josefine Jakobsen. She was the team's leading scorer during qualifying and she will wear the captain's 'C' at the Olympics.
"She's one of the smartest hockey players we had," Fabian said. "Being in Denmark, she probably never got the recognition of how good she was. . . or the recognition she would have received if she was from Sweden or Finland. For her to stick with it, reunite with Peter and have this opportunity is a pretty darn cool story for her."
Denmark's opener against China at 10:10 p.m. Thursday will be a special moment, too.
China's head coach is Brian Idalski and assistant is Max Markowitz. Elander coached under Idalski and with Markowitz at UND.
While Denmark is a longshot to medal, Fabian said it's just good to see Elander back on the Olympic stage.
"I think it's awesome," Fabian said. "He's a hockey guy. He studies it. He loves it. He loves hockey. He has other passions, too, but man he loves it. It's fun to see him continue to succeed as a coach."
Denmark's pool play schedule
10:10 p.m. Thursday — Denmark vs. China
2:40 a.m. Saturday — Denmark vs. Japan
2:40 a.m. Monday — Denmark vs. Czechia
7:10 a.m. Tuesday — Denmark vs. Sweden