Peter Forsberg played 100 games with the Philadelphia Flyers but certainly left an impression, remembered as much for on-ice success as persistent injuries.
"It started really good," Forsberg said Tuesday as the Flyers honored him for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame last month. "Me and [Simon] Gagne and that line started really well and we played so well. And it just got worse and worse."
The Flyers selected Forsberg with the sixth pick of the 1991 NHL Draft and attempted to bring him to North America for the 1992-93 season. But when Forsberg said he didn't feel NHL-ready, Philadelphia used him as the sweetener to complete a trade with the Quebec Nordiques in June 1992 for Eric Lindros.
Former Flyer Peter Forsberg enjoyed his time playing in Philadelphia. (Photo: Getty Images)
"If we could have gotten Forsberg to come I think we would have just sat tight because we would have had Forsberg, [Rod] Brind'Amour and [Mike] Ricci at center," said Russ Farwell, Philadelphia's general manager at the time. "But we couldn't get him to come and we weren't patient enough to wait."
Forsberg finally got to play for the Flyers after signing a two-year contract in the summer of 2005. He was installed at center on the top line between Gagne and Mike Knuble.
"When I got here it was a perfect start," Forsberg said. "We played really well. I got to play with Knuble and Gagne. Clicked right off the bat. I think we were leading the League until Christmas and that time was fantastic playing here. … Crowds were into it. And I enjoyed that the people here, the fans. Enjoyed the physical play and winning games. So it was a fun time."
Groin injuries limited Forsberg to 60 games, but he had 75 points. Gagne was seventh in the League with 47 goals and Knuble set career-highs with 34 goals and 65 points.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs the Flyers lost to the Buffalo Sabres in six games in the first round, but Forsberg almost single-handedly won Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia with two goals and an assist in each game. He also scored the winning goal in each game.
"He took over a room when he entered it," said R.J. Umberger, who was a 23-year-old rookie for the Flyers in 2005-06. "He's one of the all-time greats in my opinion. … The thing about Peter is he's a really good guy. He was a good team guy. He talked to the young guys, helped a lot of the young guys out. I was impressed with how he was."
Despite the on-ice success, Forsberg's right foot had become a constant issue. After the season he took a radical approach in his quest to find some relief from the pain.
"They actually cut the whole heel off and moved it over," Forsberg said. "And it didn't really help. ... So we cut it off again. It's hard to cut it off the second time because I had screws in there. So it was hard to move it."
Forsberg was in the lineup opening night, but the Flyers struggled badly. Eight games into the season the Flyers were 1-6-1, and general manager Bob Clarke retired and coach Ken Hitchcock was fired. The Flyers plummeted in the standings and Forsberg's availability became a daily question.
"It was hard here coming the second year when we didn't win a lot of games," said Forsberg, who had been named captain at the start of training camp. "I know the fans here expect you to win. And it's hard to play when you're not doing as well as you wanted."
Foot issues kept him out 16 games, but in the 40 games he played for the Flyers he had 40 points. He also went through 40 pairs of skates; he said the hardness of new skates felt better on his foot. Forsberg credited equipment manager Harry Bricker for helping him get through the season.
"I spent so many hours with him [Bricker] it was unbelievable," Forsberg said. "I remember one Thanksgiving I called him up and we met at the rink at 8:30 [in the morning] and we stayed until 9 o'clock at night. I felt so bad for his wife. We spent the whole day trying to fix the foot. It was the only day we had off by ourselves. We worked on the foot and the skate a couple hours every day. Without him it would have been hard."
The foot issues were bad enough that Forsberg, an impending unrestricted free agent, would not sign a new contract with the Flyers because he didn't know if he'd be able to keep playing. Philadelphia traded him to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 15, 2007.
"When I got traded I told [Flyers chairman Ed] Snider I would go to Nashville, but I had no problem coming back if the foot would've worked out," Forsberg said. "But unfortunately it never worked out again. So I never got the chance to come back."
Forsberg had 115 points in his short time with the Flyers; among those to play at least 25 games for the Flyers, Forsberg's 1.15 point-per-game average is second in Philadelphia history to Lindros' 1.36.
"There were a lot of great moments," Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. "It's not difficult to find a highlight-reel package of what Peter did as a Flyer."