There is no denying that Denver has provided quite the wealth for Peter Forsberg. And he’s provided quite the wealth for us as well.
Although he was a blossoming star in his native Sweden before anyone in the United States even knew his name, Forsberg’s journey to stardom was largely spent in Denver. His first Stanley Cup came in 1996 with the Avalanche, followed five years later with his second and, as of yet, last Stanley Cup. Throughout his tenure on the Avalanche, he was the darling of the city and topped the polls for favorite Denver athlete (at least in hockey) despite the popularity of Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, whose careers have been defined by their time spent in Colorado.
Commonly called “Foppa” in Sweden (and no, it doesn’t mean “puck wizard” or any of that garbage, it’s actually a nickname in the way we shorten “Smith” to “Smitty”), the criticism and doubt he has received from American and Swedish press alike amounts to a lion’s share of opinion, gossip and speculation that certainly didn’t anticipate today’s development. Forsberg will return to the NHL wearing his #21 on the back of an Avalanche sweater.
Of course, some people are doubting this move. It’s no secret that the Swedish superstar has been injured quite frequently throughout his career, even during his time in Colorado. There’s a possibility that his acquisition could be a bust — but guess what? I don’t care.
Colorado is Forsberg’s rightful home. The trade from Philly to Québec, just prior to the franchise move from Québec to Colorado, was hailed as one of the best trades in recent NHL memory. Eric Lindros turned out to be a huge bust for the Flyers while the Avalanche prospered with two Stanley Cups. Not even Philadelphia’s post-lockout acquisition of Forsberg proved any help for the terribly unlucky (rather, terribly mismanaged) franchise, its Cup hopes falling short in the playoffs. When Forsberg was traded to Nashville, the expansion team was quickly booted out of the playoffs to no great surprise and really not much more than a ‘yawn’ from the city. Both teams put significant faith in Forsberg boosting the post-season results; when this didn’t happen, he was harshly criticized and was deemed a bad acquisition. This would never have happened in Denver.
Through the good times and the bad, we Coloradoans had been proud to have “Peter den store” (Peter the Great) on our roster. When he was put out of the playoffs for shoulder surgery sometime between the first Cup and the second, we were appalled at how Richard Matvichuk got away with yet another season-ending cheap-shot. When his spleen was removed during the playoffs of what eventually made for another Stanley Cup win, we mailed hundreds of cards to the hospital thanking him for his hard work and wishing him well. (And some of us made really goofy signs for the parade, saying things like “Saknar din mjälte nu?” — do you miss your spleen now?) We have never forgotten his contributions to the Avalanche, and we’re here to welcome him back with open arms.
And unlike things have gone in other cities, there will be no hard feelings against him if things don’t work out. He is our franchise player, our favorite athlete and our sports standout. It is a true honor to have him return to Colorado.
Peter Forsberg is home.