TORONTO -- Most everybody knows the legend of Peter Forsberg by now, but those who played with him for an extensive period of time know better than anyone about just how complete a player he was. It is the main reason he is part of the 2014 induction class for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Peter Forsberg in my eyes is an extremely unique player," said Mats Sundin, who played alongside Forsberg on the Swedish national team. "He had the warrior style of hockey. He had the heart of a warrior and the hands of a [Wayne] Gretzky-type of player, which is very rare to get that combination. I don't think we'll ever see a player like that again."
Forsberg came to North America for the 1994-95 season, joining the Quebec Nordiques as a rookie. Joe Sakic, already an established player on the team, was there to greet Forsberg. Like all the players on the Nordiques, Sakic had heard all the glowing reports about the can't-miss kid coming from Sweden. It took mere days before he too was convinced about Forsberg's ability to play – and dominate – in the NHL.
"You don't know what to expect because it is training camp, but you knew the talent he had," Sakic said. "Just to see how physical and tough he was was something."
Sakic says he remembers the first time the Nordiques went into Philadelphia that season because Forsberg had been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers before he was part of the package sent to Quebec to engineer the trade for Eric Lindros. Sakic says that is when he knew Forsberg was the real deal.
"Philly had a big team and they took some runs at him and I tell you, we all knew right then it wasn't going to work against him," Sakic said. "He loved it. If you wanted to play that physical game against him, that's the way he wanted to play. Most teams should have just left him alone.
"I think everybody that played against him or watched him knew how competitive he was. He wanted to win. He wanted to play and play well all the time. There were a lot of nights when he probably didn't have to. There are some nights he could have just played hockey and been the best player out there.
"But once he stepped on the ice, he was going to play his way, the way he knew and he did that. He's definitely a huge force in this game. For his time, when he played, there was nobody better, with the vision, hockey sense, the playmaking ability and the strength."
Sometimes, says Sakic, also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was awe-inspiring when Forsberg put it all together.
"He was just an outstanding hockey player. He can do it all," he said. "What a pleasure just to be on the ice for all those years with him just to see how great he was. He put up a lot of numbers, but it was just how he played the game. He was so dominant. He was just a special player when he was feeling it physically and the way he saw the game, his vision was second to none."