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Henrik Ehlers: one of the “Great Danes”
24 Aug 2007 08:52

Among the “Great Danes” are the former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, Ryder Cup golfer Thomas Bjorn, the disgraced cyclist Michael Rasmussen and the footballing brothers Brian and Michael Laudrup. On the international hockey scene, Henrik Ehlers has umpired over 155 internationals and has set his sights on umpiring an Olympic final.

He started playing as a 14 year old at Slagelse Hockey Club playing there until he was 21 when he took up umpiring. He says the TDs and umpire managers in his early days like Peter Brown, Ernie Wall, Martin Campbell and Heinz Woeltje played big roles in his development along with his personal umpire coach Englishman Nigel Young. Later, his friendship with and input from Peter von Reth, Ray O’Connor and Don Prior helped him through to the highest level.

He began his umpiring career in 1984 after realising he wouldn’t make it as a top player.

Ehlers, 41, lives in Copenhagen working as a management consultant. He lives with his girlfriend Bettina and her 8-year old daughter, Emma.

In action at the recent EuroHockey Nations Championships in Manchester, Ehlers took time out to talk to Cathy Harris.

What do you remember most about umpiring your first international?

Being nervous and running too much up and down the pitch. Graham Nash was the senior umpire and he saw me running more than umpiring. (U/21 Sweden vs. Finland 1989)

What is your routine for the day when you are scheduled to umpire a 5pm match

Sleeping until 7-8-ish and going for a morning run with either John Wright, David Gentles and/or Rob ten Cate. Then breakfast followed by a relaxed morning. Lunch at 1 o’clock followed by reading and sleeping until 2 o’clock until departure at 3.30 pm

What rules, if any, would you change in the game and why

Allowing players to play the ball above shoulder height all over the pitch – it is just silly not be able to do this if there is no danger.

Which are the best three players you've ever umpired and why

I have umpired Teun de Nooijer ever since I have been on the world panel (1996) and he is truly a great player as well as a true gentleman on the pitch. Santi Freixa is one of the most lethal attackers I have ever seen and is enjoyable to watch and fun to umpire. And of course the famous Shabaz from Pakistan whose stick work and running, plus his sense of spirit in the game was a great contribution.

Of all the countries you've visited which is your favourite

Australia – I have been there 2 times with hockey. And I love it there. The atmosphere, the climate and the people are wonderful.

My parents taught me.....

Politeness and good manners. To trust in people unless they prove differently.

What was the best present you ever had, and why

My appointment to the Olympic Games in 1996 revealed to me by Horacio Servetto in Santi Deo’s apartment in Barcelona on the eve of the completion of the qualifier in 1996.

What book are you reading at the moment and who is your favourite author

Recoil by Andy McNab – my favourite author is Stieg Larsson of Sweden who unfortunately died too soon but has gifted the world with some lethal thrillers.

What were your childhood ambitions

To become a lawyer….and later on to umpire the Olympic final some day.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life

Hmmmmm difficult…..of course my parents and in hockey my coach Nigel Young.

Do you have any regrets


Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner and what would you give them

I would invite my family and my girlfriend, serve them great food and thank them for supporting me in my umpiring.

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