Peter Forsberg was elected to the National Hockey League Hall of Fame on Monday. The former Colorado Avalanche center enjoyed a stellar career that was unfortunately cut short due to nagging foot injuries.
Forsberg was a superstar who did not play like many other superstars who expect to be protected by their teammates or the referees. In fact, Forsberg would seek out contact and was often the aggressor on the ice. He was willing to go into the corners and fight for the puck, he would check anyone he had to in order to gain an advantage and he loved it. Forsberg relished in the physical part of the game and in the end, that approach probably cost him a few seasons.
However that physical style of play is what made Forsberg the great player he was and if he had played any differently, then he may not be headed to the Hall of Fame. In addition to his physical play, Forsberg was a magician with the puck on his stick. He controlled the puck like Pele controlled a soccer ball, and no one was taking it away from him.
Forsberg seem to have eyes in the back of his head and teammates who thought they weren’t open quickly found themselves with a golden scoring chance because he saw something no one else did. There are so many memories of Forsberg and how great he was, here are a few that stick out.
It’s game two of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche won easily 8-2 on their way to a series sweep but the play that sticks out is a Forsberg goal. There was a shot from the blue line that got tipped over the net, hit the glass and bounced back to the front of the net. Forsberg followed the puck the entire way, positioned himself at the side of the net and used a baseball swing to knock the puck in out of mid-air. It was a play that maybe five other players in history could make, and Forsberg made it look easy.
In a regular season game versus the Edmonton Oilers, the Avalanche were on the penalty kill. Forsberg got the puck right off of the faceoff and skated around with it for close to a minute and a half. He literally killed the penalty by himself. I remember watching the other players who just started to watch him because they knew they couldn’t catch him. It was the ultimate sign of respect.
Then there was the 2001-02 season where Forsberg did something that had never been done before, and may never be done again. He missed the entire regular season due to that nagging ankle, but returned for the playoffs. Most people believed if he gave them anything as a third-line center, then it would be a bonus. He did a bit more than just play on the third line.
In 20 playoff games, Forsberg had 27 points (9 goals and 18 assists). As impressive as those numbers are, they don’t tell the story of how dominant he was in that postseason run. Teams could not stay with him and he did just about anything he wanted. Had the Avalanche advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, Forsberg would have won the Con Smythe Trophy that is awarded to the playoff MVP. He would have won that award even if the Avalanche had lost in the finals. There are many that believe and still believe that he should have won the award despite not advancing to the finals, that’s how great he was in those playoffs.
Forsberg’s best individual season came in 2002-03 where he won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, and also added the Art Ross Trophy which is given to the league’s leading scorer. As great as that season was for Forsberg, he would tell you that it was a failure because the Avalanche were upset in the first round by the Minnesota Wild. That was Forsberg; team success was all that mattered to him.
After the 2003 season, Forsberg struggled to stay on the ice and those injuries eventually forced him to retire for good in 2010. He had some classic Forsberg moments in those six seasons but his best years were in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
We can play the if game forever but if Forsberg had been healthy for all those years, then there’s no telling the numbers he would have put up. Forsberg was a once in a generation player and now it’s time for him to take his rightful place, the National Hockey League Hall of Fame.