The impact of Sweden on Ice Hockey has been insurmountable. Players such as Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Victor Hedman, Borje Salming, The Sedins and soo many more – I could go on with this list for days – have taken this game to a whole new level and continue to help it grow until this day.
This article will contain a little background on how Sweden itself changed how we play hockey. Then how some individual players shaped aspects of the game.
A Swedish Hockey Player has been by many as a Hybrid player of sorts. A strong two-way player who was disciplined in his game – rarely caught out of position, or caught taking penalties – and who was adaptable to any situation and style. A Swedish player possessed brilliant speed and stickhandling skills – which in turn usually meant playmaking skills – but the greatest skill of all that Swedish players possessed was their need to not be under the spotlight. Now there are exceptions to this just like everything else but this, for the most part, is considered a Swedish player. If you’ve ever watched hockey back in the ’60-’70s even earlier it was a lot about crash and bang – hit everything, play physical – but Sweden came in with this new blend of player who wasn’t as physical but could burn at both ends of the ice. Borje Salming a prime component of this, not overly physical but could skate and play amazing at both ends of the ice – you never knew where the puck was going with those puck handling skills.
Borje Salming was one of the first European players to make an impact in the National Hockey League (NHL). His ability to play like a North American player – as they called it, with tenacity, grit, and brute – combined with his skills that made him truly an impactful Swedish player and NHL player – His hands, speed, and scoring ability – paved the way for many up and coming European players. Salming opened the doors for the many Europeans and would be forever remembered for his impact on the game when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
Followed the Swedish hockey philosophy to a Tee. Lidstrom played in a very gritty time in the NHL and yet he played the game with finesse, amazing skating and vision, tremendous poise and most of all without being overly physical. Lidstrom used his stick well and would begin to pave the way for what would become the NEW style of NHL defencemen. Not overly physical, could skate and really knew how to use their sticks. Lidstrom would win 4 Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and would show what all teams were looking for in player true LOYALTY.
Forsberg became something that many NHL teams could quite fathom back in the day, today it’s normal for us to see – a Skilled Power Forward. Most Power Forwards were considered to be big, hard-hitting and scored the majority of their goals from in front of the net. Tomas Holmstrom comes to mind – another Swedish hockey player – But Forsberg was different in some senses, he wasn’t overly physical – he could play the body but Forsberg never went out of his way to take anyone out. Forsberg scored from the dirty areas but he could play a skills game and I mean out of this world skill, Forsberg would open up the doors for guys like James Van Riemsdyk, Rick Nash and many more. He would also show tremendous loyalty which seems to be a trait of Swedish players – Sundin, Backstrom, Lidstrom, Sedins etc.
The Sedins – Henrik and Daniel
One of a kind that’s all I can say when I hear these 2 names. Because they put on a clinic of skill for many many years. Their impact on Hockey was how they handled themselves on and off the ice. Never criticized anyone, they let their game do the talking and gave it everything they had every night. Even when they played with Superstar Markus Naslund, their egos never got in the way, they let him take the spotlight and drowned into the background. The ultimate teammates. No one can take away what they brought to the game offensively, they meshed with anyone, it was like their goal. But how they impacted the game was with who they were. True sportsman. Amazing teammate and a legacy of so much skill.
Henrik “King” Lundqvist
Lundqvist is a winner, Yeah you will say he hasn’t won a cup. Sure, say go ahead. Problem is that he is the winningest European Goaltender in NHL history. The Rangers haven’t had the greatest of teams but with Lundqvist, you always knew you were getting a chance to win. His nickname King is because he came in and took over New York with his game, his humility and how he would always find ways to win. Lundqvist impacted the NHL by his goalie style one of the first goaltenders ever to master the art of my goalie techniques and use them all in different situations. Lundqvist is known as a butterfly goaltender by name with his strong positional play, but his athleticism and his ability to stop pucks from an upright position allowed him to mesh together many different techniques -Lundqvist at one time mixes, Butterfly, Standup, and aggressive unorthodoxy, for those who don’t know that think Dominik Hasek. Nowadays you’ll find a lot of European Goalies who learn multiple styles in order to use in a game, this is the Lundqvist effect.
So there you have it Sweden’s impact on the NHL and Hockey in general. Look out for the next segment of Impacting the Hockey World, when TXHT takes a look at Russia and hockey impacted the hockey world.