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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Canada Cup: Tre Kronor finishes third

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

The 1991 Canada Cup would continue Sweden's position as the fourth or fifth-best country in these tournaments. Their best finish in the tournament was in 1984, finishing as runners-up to Team Canada; in all other tournaments, Sweden finished behind some combination of Canada, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and/or the United States. 1991 would continue this trend, as Sweden would lose 4-0 to Canada in the semi-finals.

Don't take this relative lack of success at the Canada Cup to indicate a lack of international hockey success. At the Olympics in the 1980s and early 1990s, Sweden won one gold (1994) and three bronze (1980, 1984 and 1988). At the World Championships, Sweden would medal every year between 1986 and 1995 (save a fourth place finish in 1989), winning three gold, four silver and one bronze medal.

What explains the disparity in success between the Canada Cup and other international tournaments? Likely the fact that the Olympics and World Championships were not true best-on-best tournaments. While Communist-bloc countries could send their best 'amateur' athletes to the Olympics, Canada and the USA were left sending young non-professionals. The World Championships were held at the end of the NHL regular season/start of the playoffs, precluding any playoff bound players (mostly Canadians and Americans), and any NHLers that chose to rest up at the end of the season.

Fast forwarding to modern times, Sweden has proven itself as one of the top six hockey countries in the world, capable of winning any tournament it enters.

For this set, a couple of noteworthy items stand out. First, the misspelling of both Nicklas Lidstrom (spelled Niklas on the card) and Niclas Andersson (spelled Niklas), a common trend for players that had yet to make their mark in North America. Second, these cards put on full display the unique yellow and blue jersey patterns for Team Sweden, along with their Tre Kronor, or three crowns, logo. Compared to the bland Czechslovakia rotated flag jerseys, these beauties stand out.

Card # 26 – Niklas Lidstrom

Selected in the third round by Detroit in 1989, 1991 was Lidstrom’s first Canada Cup after playing three seasons in the Swedish Elite League. The young defenceman would record two points in six games, and make his NHL debut with the Red Wings immediately after the tournament. He would go on to do some pretty impressive things, but we will cover his NHL career later as part of his rookie card in the set.

Internationally, Lidstrom would suit up for the Tre Kronor in the 1996 and 2004 World Cups as well as four Olympics (1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010), winning gold in Turin in 2006. Lidstrom would also earn gold, silver and bronze medals on Swedish World Championship teams.

Card # 27 – Tomas Forslund

Forslund was a fifth round pick of Calgary in 1988, and like many of the players featured on Team Sweden’s cards, was making his Canada Cup debut, although slightly older than some at age of 23. A veteran of six seasons in the Swedish Elite League (SEL) with Leksand, the right winger would score one goal in six tournament games before starting his short NHL career during the 1991-92 season.

The 1991 Canada Cup would be Forslund’s only best-on-best international appearance for the yellow and blue.

Card # 28 – Johan Garpenlov

A fifth round pick of Detroit in 1986, Garpenlov was coming off his rookie season in Michigan in 1990-91 before suiting up in his first Canada Cup. Previously a veteran of four seasons in the SEL with Djurgarden, the left winger would record one assist in six games at the 1991 tourney.

Cursed with a relatively short NHL career, Garpenlov would appear in the 1996 World Cup, and win gold at the 1991 World Championships.

Card # 29 – Niclas Andersson

Yet another misspelled Niclas (in the NHL he would go by Niklas), the under-sized left winger was a fourth round pick of Quebec in 1989. The 1991 Canada Cup was his debut appearance on the best-on-best stage, and the 20-year-old would record one assist in six games.

Niklas would appear in three games with the Nordiques in 1992-93, while spending most of that and the next three seasons in the AHL & IHL. In that time he built up a decent prospect resume, scoring 82 points in 1992-93 with Halifax. He would break back into the NHL in 1995-96, playing parts of two seasons with the New York Islanders and 1997-98 with San Jose before bouncing back to the minors.

Andersson would have one final cup of coffee in the NHL, playing in 35 games between 1999-2001 with the Islanders, Nashville and Calgary before returning to Sweden to play a full decade before retiring in 2011. During his time in Sweden he would win the Golden Puck, the SEL’s equivalent of the Hart Trophy, in 2003 and add three silver medals and one bronze medal from various World Championships.

Hockey is a family business for the Andersson’s, as Niklas’ brother Mikael played over 700 games in the NHL between 1985-2000, and Niklas’ son Lias was selected seventh overall by the New York Rangers in 2017. Niklas is currently a scout with the Los Angeles Kings, a position he has held since 2013.

Card # 30 – Tomas Sandstrom

In contrast to his fellow Swedes featured in this series, Sandstrom was a veteran to North America, having logged seven NHL seasons between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings. After debuting for Sweden at the 1984 Canada Cup, the 26-year-old right winger would score three points in six games in 1991.

Sandstrom also represented Sweden at the 1984 and 1998 Olympics, winning bronze in Sarajevo in 1984, which surprisingly was his only international medal for Sweden.

Card # 31 – Mats Sundin

Selected first overall in 1989 draft by Quebec, Sundin was the first European selected first overall. The big centre was coming off a decent rookie season, recording 23 goals and 59 points. He would finish seventh in Calder Trophy voting for rookie-of-the-year, behind four players that would go on to have Hall-of-Fame careers (we all know Jagr is getting in once his three-year waiting period is over).

Appearing in his first Canada Cup, Sundin lived up to the hype, leading Sweden in scoring with six points in six games, and being named to the tournament all-star team.

Sundin would go on to become a mainstay for Sweden internationally, acting as team captain for nearly a decade while playing on teams with fellow Swedish legends Nicklas Lidstrom and Daniel Alfredsson. He would play in three Olympics (1998, 2002 and 2006), winning gold in 2006, and playing in the 1996 and 2004 World Cup. In the World Championships, Sundin would win an unbelievable eight medals in his career (three gold, two silver and two bronze).

Our next post will feature the last set of Canada Cup teams, the United States of America.

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