Born July 20, 1973 (age 38) in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
Center primarily for Quebec/Colorado and now an assistant manager for Modo Sports
Today we spotlight Peter Forsberg, affectionately known as Foppa, the player Patrice Bergeron idolized as a kid. Forsberg was born into hockey; his dad Kent coached Modo and the Swedish national team. Kent also coached his son many times–during Peter’s time in Modo, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1998 Olympics and the 1998 Worlds. (Dad and son also own a development company that helped finance Modo’s new stadium.) But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Forsberg started out playing juniors with Modo in 1989, also showing up in the Elitserien a few times and going back and forth between the two levels. He was drafted in 1991 by Philadelphia at sixth overall and was the first European drafted that year. The Philly media criticized this pick, so the team management decided they’d need to prove them wrong. However, he didn’t stay a Flyer for long. A guy by the name of Eric Lindros was drafted first overall that same year by Quebec but his mom told him not to sign a contract and to hold out on them. He held out on them for a year until a deal was reached: five players (including Forsberg), two first-round draft picks and $15 million went to the Nordiques in exchange for Lindros. But all this time, Forsberg was in Sweden, playing his heart out, winning the Golden Puck (best Swedish player of the year) and Golden Helmet (Elitserien MVP) in 1993 and 1994. By 1994, he was considered the best player outside the NHL. He’d signed a contract with Quebec in 1993 and decided after the 1994 Modo playoff run to go play in America. But a lockout delayed that and he stayed with Modo for 11 more games before hitting the States.
Forsberg debuted in January 1995 when the abbreviated 1994-95 season began. In his first game against the Flyers, he got an assist, adding his first goal soon thereafter against Buffalo. His rookie year was good–50 points in 47 games, a 26-point run in 14 games, only one game missed due to flu, Nordiques won the division and then he got the Calder. After that first season, the Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche had a stellar first year (thanks in large part to pre-salary cap exorbitant-by-comparison spending by Colorado management) in which they won the division and the Stanley Cup. This was the only year Forsberg would play in all of his team’s games. He scored 116 points in the regulars and 21 points in the playoffs, including a three-goal period showing in the playoffs against Florida. Forsberg kept achieving things: helping Colorado to its first President’s Trophy, fighting his only fight (against Detroit’s Martin Lapointe), appearing on the cover of NHL 98, winning another Cup in 2001. He needed to have his spleen removed in 2001 and took the next season off to recuperate, though he returned for the playoffs. When he returned in 2002-03, he was in fine form on a line with Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk, winning the Art Ross and Hart trophies.
In the Year That Never Was, he went back to Modo, which now featured two other sons of Örnsköldsvik, two guys by the name of Sedin. He didn’t play all the games because he needed wrist surgery, but he did play well when he did. New NHL began with the salary cap, which I did kind of mention before; because of this, Colorado had to rein in its spending and set Forsberg out to make room for Sakic. He went to Philadelphia, where he became captain in October 2006. How was he supposed to know the Flyers were in a slump? He was traded to Nashville just before the trade deadline in February 2007 as part of a strategy meant to boost Nashville’s playoff run. The Preds’ last regular season game that year was…in Denver. Awkward! After that, he had foot surgery and wasn’t sure if he could play for much of 2007-08. He did return, though–to Colorado. Even after a ten-month break, when he returned in March 2008, he was first in average points per game, even ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. From 2008-10, he played for Modo again before hinting that he might retire.
While he didn’t officially retire and un-retire like Mario Lemieux did, he did start trying for a comeback in January 2011. The Avalanche welcomed him back again in February and he was on the starting lineup for a game against Columbus, though on the left wing. After just one more road game, he officially retired before he could play a home game. The Avalanche will retire his number 21 during their 2011-12 home opener. He carries a notable list of achievements, including playing in the 1994 (gold), 1998, 2006 (gold) and 2010 (flagbearer at opening ceremonies) Olympics, in five Worlds and in seven All-Star Games. He’s a Triple Gold Club member (like the man who idolized him is now!), although he technically has enough hardware to be a member twice. Colorado retiring his number will help ensure his legacy. I’m sure Patrice is proud of his idol!