Swedish hockey player, 1973-
Forsberg is one of the greatest Swedish ice hockey players of all time. He's both a great playmaker and a scorer, having been close to top in the NHL for several years. He claims to not care about who scores the goals, he's just as happy assisting them as making them. He's also an excellent penalty killer, being able to keep the puck almost indefinitely. He can both give and receive a brutal tackle. He's also very loyal to whatever team he's involved with. When the Swedish national team calls, he comes and he has also stated that he wants to finish his career in his original team, Modo Hockey.
The early years
Forsberg was born on the 20th of July 1973 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. He started out as a promising football player, but eventually chose hockey instead. Örnsköldsvik, and its team Modo Hockey, is the proverbial breeding ground for Swedish hockey players (Markus Näslund, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are all from this area) and Forsberg's father, Kent Forsberg, is a coach who has led both Modo Hockey and the Swedish national team, so choosing hockey over fotball was not an upsetting decision.
One of the reasons football was even in the running was the fact that Forsberg was small, too weak for hockey, to put it bluntly. In the beginning of 1990 he tried out for Modo Hockey for the first time, but was rejected because of this (he played one game, scoring one point and two penalties). The coach told him to hit the gym, so that's what he did. After quickly gaining a few pounds, he made his debut for Modo Hockey on November 4, 1990. After a few games he was established as one of the regulars in the lineup.
Modo Hockey, 1990-1994
The first season playing for Modo Hockey, 1990-1991, Forsberg recorded 17 points and 22 penalties in the 23 games he played. The second season he showed that he wasn't one to hold back when it comes to the physical aspects of the game, recording 78 penalties in addition to the 27 points he scored in 39 games. He didn't (and still doesn't) fight though, he just puts an elbow in when it's needed. His real breakthrough came the 1992-1993 season, when he scored 47 points and 92 penalties. This got him second place in the points league and first in the penalty league. He also received both Guldhjälmen (The Golden Helmet, NHL equivalent: Lester B. Pearson Trophy) and Guldpucken (The Golden Puck, NHL equivalent: Hart Trophy). Despite this Modo Hockey was not able to go far in the playoffs. This, however, changed the next year.
The season 1993-1994 Forsberg played all 39 games in the Swedish Hockey League, scored 44 points and 82 penalties. In the playoffs he almost single-handedly won the title for Modo Hockey, being the top scorer in the playoffs. In the fifth and deciding game against Malmö IF, Modo Hockey lost after having had a 2-0 advantage in games. Forsberg was extremely upset and the lucky reporter, who managed to stick a microphone in his face only seconds after the match was over, got the following memorable quote: "Jag är så jävla sur på Börje!" (loosely: "I fucking hate Börje") after which Forsberg broke his stick against the sideboards. Börje was, of course, the referee. Forsberg won both Guldhjälmen and Guldpucken this year too.
Olympic Games, Lillehammer, 1994
1994 was the year of the Olympic Games in Lillehammer. Sweden, who likes to think of itself as one of the great winter sport nations, had so far only gotten one gold medal when the hockey team won a whopping 22 in a single day, easily gaining the top spot in the medal league for Sweden. In the final game against Canada, sudden death or regular penalty shots couldn't decide the game, so it went to sudden death by penalty shots. Forsberg made what is now a classic shot, feinting the poor goalie Corey Hirsch until he was almost in the stands buying hotdogs (a Swedish expression by the way). In the following shot Paul Kariya didn't manage to outsmart Swedish goalie Tommy Salo and the match was over. Although it was Tommy Salo's save that won the match, it was Forsberg's penalty shot that was seen in all the news and it was later made into a stamp. Corey Hirsch wasn't entirely happy about this, and was even considering a lawsuit, but that never got further than tabloid rumours. Being a deciding factor in the final game against Canada sparked the NHL's interest and Forsberg went west in the fall of 1994.
Québec Nordiques, 1994-1995
Forsberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, but was traded in the Eric Lindros deal by the Québec Nordiques even before playing in the NHL. His first season in the NHL was mixed, succesful on the professional plane but less so personally. He didn't feel comfortable living in the french speaking parts of Canada, having big problems with the language. This, thankfully, didn't affect his quality on the ice.
He made his NHL debut on January 21, 1995, scoring one assist. His first goal came six days later. At the end of the 1994-1995 campaign Forsberg had scored 35 assists, 15 goals and had a +17 plus/minus rating, making him the most succesful rookie that year. It was only logical that he won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Colorado Avalance, 1995-2001
In 1995 the Québec Nordiques moved to Colorado and changed their name to Colorado Avalanche. Forsberg scored 116 points (86 assists and 30 goals) and helped the Avalance win the Stanley Cup. The following years were mostly the same, Forsberg constantly among NHL's top scorers, but every year missing a few games due to injuries, which kept him from reaching the top spot. Swedish press mostly blamed his injuries on the fact that the Colorado Avalanche didn't supply him with a bodyguard, someone to protect him on the ice. As was noted earlier though, Forsberg is not one to hold back when in close contact with the opponent, so care should be taken before someone is made into a scapegoat. In 2000-2001 Forsberg scored 89 points (62 assists and 27 goals), helped his team win the Stanley Cup and was named captain of the World All-Stars in the All-Star Game. He missed the final two rounds of the playoffs due to a spleen injury.
In the May 10, 2001 playoff game against the Los Angeles Kings Forsberg suffered an injury to his spleen. It wasn't noticed until later the same night, when Forsberg and some of his team mates celebrated their victory at a restaurant. He started coughing blood and went white with pain, his spleen had ruptured. He went into surgery immediately (already having lost a few litres of blood) to remove the spleen. Thankfully he seemed to make a full recovery, the spleen not being one of our essential organs. Therefore, it was a big surprise when Forsberg, during the pre-season training in 2001, announced that he would take a break from hockey. He didn't even want to say when, or if, he would return.
The immediate reason was problems with his feet, possibly needing surgery, but it was apparent that Forsberg no longer felt the same joy towards hockey. He had only played one season (1995-1996) without being injured. He had injuries in his feet, his knees, his hip, his elbows and his shoulders. He had also suffered quite a few concussions. To put it simply, his body was fed up. Being injured and needing surgery he had the option of staying in Denver and receive full pay, but he declined this and he went home to Örnsköldsvik. At home he relaxed, met up with old buddies and built a golf course.
The triumphant return
On April 18, 2002 Forsberg returned to the NHL just in time for the playoffs, against the Los Angeles Kings. A one year hiatus would probably dampen the quality of your game in normal cases, Forsberg is, however, not amongst those. Despite the Colorado Avalanche not reaching the finals, Forsberg scored the most points of all players in the playoffs. The next year Forsberg and childhood friend Markus Näslund (the Vancouver Canucks) chased each other to be the top scorer. Näslund led most of the season, but Forsberg finally overtook him in the last game of the year with a shot through three zones into an empty goal.
This was, however, the year of defensive teams playing boring hockey (an opinion, not fact) so both the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated early in the playoffs. This didn't keep Forsberg from winning both the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy. He was a little sad about edging out a friend from the title, but Näslund was compensated with the Lester B. Pearson Trophy. Early in the 2003-2004 season Forsberg sustained yet another injury, this time to his stomach. After missing 19 games he was yet again back on the ice, hopefully to be able to complete his career.
Forsberg has won about everything you can in the NHL. He has the same sort of feelings as Tommy Salo and Mats Sundin when it comes to Sweden's national team. If their teams are eliminated they come home to play in the World Championships, something we as Swedes enjoy, since it raises the attraction of this rather mediocre tournament by a significant amount. This has given Forsberg a few titles on the international level too.
The one thing he still lacks is the Swedish championship title, and he wants it bad. So bad that he has stated that he will finish his career playing for Modo Hockey, earning approximately nothing compared to his NHL salary, for a shot at the Swedish title. With a probable NHL lockout in the fall of 2004 this year might be the last we will see Forsberg in the worlds greatest hockey league. If this happens, Forsberg will almost certainly get the last title he's chasing. Modo Hockey will have Forsberg, Näslund and the Sedin twins and Tommy Salo and Niklas Lidström will probably also play for Modo Hockey since their original team, Västerås IK, doesn't play in the highest league in Sweden. This will, arguably, make Modo Hockey the worlds greatest team in 2005 and the other teams in the Sweden will probably let Forsberg and friends have their way.
Update, Sept 22 2004
The NHL lockout is now a fact and most of the swedes in the league are returning home. Peter Forsberg, dissapointed with the way he played in the last two World Championships and the World Cup, actually signed a contract for the complete season in Sweden whereas most of the other players will return mid-season if the NHL starts again.
His first game in Sweden since the finals in -94 ended in the penalty box, but he managed to score an amazing slapshot goal before that. However, if he doesn't pick up his game quite a bit, it looks like it will be the Sedin twins who'll rule the ice this year.
Update, Sept 1 2005
The NHL lockout came and went. Peter Forsberg played for Modo together with the Sedin twins, Markus Näslund and Tommy Salo, to name the most famous names. It did not go as planned however. Injuries to stomach, feet and lastly to his hand ruined the season and he once again missed the chance of a Swedish championships title.
With the new salary cap in place Colorado couldn't afford to keep him and Philadelphia Flyers offered him a deal he couldn't refuse. He took a pay cut and is not even the highest earning swede in the NHL anymore. He actually could have earned more in some other team, Los Angeles Kings was rumored to have offered him top pay, but Forsberg had other motivations than money. He wanted to play for a team with a realistic chance of winning the Stanley Cup, and he didn't want to play in the same conference as his old team.
His arrival in Philadelphia was met with high anticipation and sales of season tickets sky-rocketed. The coming season will tell if Forsberg still can perform magic on ice or if his body is too badly worn down. Let's hope for the former.
Update, February 21 2007
Forsberg was traded by Philadelphia to the Nashville Predators on February 21, 2007, in exchange for Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall, a first round pick and third round draft pick in the 2007 Entry Draft.