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Stadium Series

Forsberg shows some old form in rare return to ice

Gets assist in Alumni Game, but injured foot still limits him

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director, Editorial

DENVER -- There was a time when hockey fans expected the superhuman from Peter Forsberg, especially during his prime with the Colorado Avalanche. 

Those days, Forsberg acknowledges, are long gone. 

Yet Forsberg found a way to deliver a few bits of magic Friday during the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game at Coors Field against the Detroit Red Wings. 

He had an assist on the opening goal of what would become a 5-2 win by the home team in front of 43,319 fans. It was a bit of the magic he once had when he played on the line with Valeri Kamensky and Claude Lemieux two decades ago and it was finished by Kamensky with a one-timer at 4:49. 

"I did get on the scoreboard, plus-1," Forsberg said with a smile. "It was perfect." 

Perfect for Forsberg when it comes to hockey has changed considerably in the past two decades. 

He first injured his right foot during the 2002-03 season and it resurfaced throughout the rest of his career, limiting his effectiveness and availability until he retired in 2011. Forsberg had multiple operations and tried a variety of skate designs to stabilize the foot, but nothing worked. 

"The foot is really bad and I don't really enjoy skating anymore," Forsberg said Friday morning. "First I was good shape, good foot, then I was bad foot, good shape, and now I'm bad foot, bad shape, so it's not a good combination." 

In 1994-95, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie as a member of the Quebec Nordiques. The next season, after the franchise relocated to Denver, he won the Stanley Cup for the first time. In 2001, he won the Cup again. In 2003, he was MVP of the League, winning the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top scorer. 

He was on top of the world, and then his body began to betray him. After that 2002-03 season, Forsberg never played more than 60 games in a season and played 40 or fewer in five of his final six seasons. He retired in 2011 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he was eligible in 2014. 

So being back in a "grudge match" against the Detroit Red Wings, the renewal of a rivalry that dominated the peak years of Forsberg's career, was a new version of perfect for the 42-year-old. The teams met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times in a seven-year span from 1996 to 2002. 

Those series, often violent and beautiful in the same game, if not the same shift, were a proving ground of sorts for Forsberg. He loved every minute of the chaos, understanding the Red Wings were pushing him and his teammates to be better than they ever were before and deliver more than they thought possible. 

"They were fantastic games to watch," Forsberg said. "Tough to play, but they had to be cool to watch." 

The games often were marred by fights and borderline plays by players from either side. But that was just part of the process for Forsberg. 

"Thinking back, we weren't really physical teams," he said. "When we played against each other, it was something that came out. It was just hockey. Whatever you do to help to make the team win." 

Now, more than a decade removed from the height of the hostilities, Forsberg said all the enmity has dissipated, erased by fresher memories, good and bad. 

"It's hard for us to play today," Forsberg said. "The fans probably expect us to maybe hate each other, but it has been so many years that is hard to go out and feel bad about [the Red Wings]." 

It is also hard for the alumni to play with the vigor that once defined their raging rivalry. 

For Forsberg, and the others on Friday, it was about reliving the memories when they gather like this. The goal was to survive, not to impress. 

Forsberg did a bit of both Friday.

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