TORONTO (Reuters) - Peter Forsberg and Dominik Hasek earned a handsome living in the NHL, but it was playing for their countries that gained them special places in hockey history.
Their global exploits secured Forsberg, the brilliant Swedish forward, and Hasek, the unorthodox Czech netminder, places in the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2014 that will be enshrined in ceremonies on Monday
Twice their names have been tapped onto the Stanley Cup and both have claimed Hart trophies as the National Hockey League’s most valuable player but it was Olympic ice hockey gold that left an ever-lasting mark on the sport in their countries.
Before going onto riches and fame in the NHL, Forsberg was a national hero, potting the winning goal over Canada in the men’s final at the 1994 Lillehammer Games to give Sweden their first ice hockey Olympic gold medal.
The goal was immortalized on a Swedish postage stamp, Forsberg earning a rare honour alongside tennis’s Bjorn Borg, alpine skier Ingemar Stenmark, musical group ABBA and Swedish royalty.
There was no postage stamp for Hasek when he backstopped the Czech Republic to an unlikely first-ever gold medal in the sport at the 1998 Nagano Games but the moment is imprinted on a nation’s memory.
“The people in Czech they still remember what they are doing that day when we beat Canadians in the semi-final ... how they were celebrating and then in the finals game,” Hasek told reporters on Friday. “It is an unforgettable moment.”
Forsberg, twice a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s triple gold club (Stanley Cup, Olympic and world championship titles), crammed a lot into a 14-year NHL career cut short by injuries and 20 operations.
But it was Hasek, six-time winner of the Vezina trophy as the NHL’s top netminder, that Forsberg marked as one of the toughest he ever faced.
”He (Hasek) was tough to score against, he always had a part of his body somewhere that he could save the puck,“ said Forsberg, who spent most of his career with the Colorado Avalanche winning two Cups. ”He would come out of the net two metres and you would be like, ‘who does that as a goalie’.
“He was so smart and had the body to work with it things going everywhere, a leg up in the crossbar, whatever it took to make the save.”
Editing by Gene Cherry