||08-12-2005 11:31 AM
Forsberg is a down to earth guy
From Flyersphans forum:
From today's PDN. Sorry if posted already
The King and Us
Forsberg regarded royally, wherever he's been
By DANA PENNETT O'NEIL
THE STORY GOES that in 1994, the tiny seaport town of Ornskoldsvik was celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the Swedish king and his family were coming for a visit.
The king planned a stop at a school, and the schoolchildren, hearing that the king was coming to visit, flocked to see him. Only when they saw their reigning monarch, the children walked away disappointed.
One child, voicing the displeasure of all, said, "Oh, it is that king. Our king is Forsberg.''
Urban tale? Swedish myth? Perhaps. But that is the level of hero worship afforded the man who on Monday will don a Flyers sweater for the television cameras' bright lights and the fans' delight.
Peter Forsberg, considered one of the best, if not the best, hockey players in the world, is more than just a hockey star. He is adored and beloved in Sweden, admired in Denver and respected universally.
"Hey, look, I never want to badmouth anybody, but a few that they've had in Philadelphia, let's just say they were concerned about their own powers, their own abilities,'' said Vancouver coach Marc Crawford, who coached Forsberg in his first four NHL seasons. "They're getting a guy now who is a treat to play with, a treat to be around. It's almost poetic justice that he ends up there.''
The joy Forsberg will bring to Philadelphia - the organization he signed a 2-year, $11.5 million deal with last week - is matched only by the disappointment felt in Denver, where he played eight seasons and fans were nothing short of devastated when the news broke that he was leaving the Colorado Avalanche.
"No one is going to replace the name of Forsberg,'' one dejected fan told the Denver Post.
He was a beloved sports star there - a love affair certainly born in part thanks to the two Stanley Cups he hoisted while in town - but it was more than that. It would be sacrilege to put Forsberg on the same plane as Colorado's first son, John Elway, but he was only a rung or so below on the ladder.
"When the news first came out, there was an emotional reaction from fans and from us within the organization,'' said Jean Martineau, the Avalanche senior vice president for communications and team services, who has known Forsberg for his entire NHL career. "He's been a great athlete here for a very long time, and everyone was so attached to that guy.
"Everyone understood that the landscape we were facing, that we did what we could do to keep him, but sure there was an emotional reaction.''
As talented as he is, as colossal as his career has been, Forsberg has won fans because he does not tote the requisite superstar mantle of arrogance around with him. Coaches who have known him since his teen years and acquaintances who have met him only recently always say the same thing about the 32-year-old - he is an ordinary Joe stuck in an extraordinary athlete's body.
Forsberg's star caught the fast track in '93, when he led all scorers with 31 points in the world championships and found its permanent place in the heavens in '94.
At the Olympics that year in Lillehammer, the 20-year-old Forsberg scored the game-winning goal in a shootout against Canada to lift Sweden to its first Olympic gold medal.
It was no ordinary goal, but rather a juke to the left and shift to the right bit of artistry that broke a tension-filled 2-2 tie on the fifth penalty shot and became Sweden's own miracle on ice, remembered forever in a rendering on a Swedish postage stamp.
"That was the goal, not the player,'' said Kent Forsberg, who obviously bestowed his humility on his youngest son.
Tell that to the Swedes.
In a country famous for Absolut, Abba and Elin (as in Tiger Woods' wife), it is a hockey player who has been given the nickname Magic Boy. Forsberg's father scoffs at the comparison to Michael Jordan, but, really, Forsberg is as big in Sweden as Jordan is here.
After only 1 year in the NHL, a biography, appropriately titled "Magic Boy,'' was published. A revised edition was distributed following his 1996 Stanley Cup championship. Author Hasse Andersson said it sold about 30,000 copies in Sweden.
Throw in the mix his generous spirit - he and Naslund head a charity in Sweden, Icebreakers, to help families with educational or medical needs; he's helping to finance a $23 million hockey arena in Ornskoldsvik and already built a $5 million golf course there; he volunteered to visit Columbine High School after the shootings there, and his Step Right Up for Kids program in Denver endeared him to countless civic and charitable organizations - and Forsberg needs only a pretty red bow to complete the perfect package.
"He is special,'' Melinder said. "He's standing on the ground with both feet, or however you say it. He's thankful, grateful for everything he has, loves to give young players advice. He's real, a real person.''