Forsberg Following Namesake

It was less than a week ago that Peter Forsberg left his hometown of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden to re-join the National Hockey League. Before long, Tobias Forsberg will be following his childhood role model to do the same.

However, unlike Peter, who is expected to suit up with the Avalanche sometime in the upcoming week, Tobias Forsberg must get chosen in the upcoming 2008 Entry Draft before he earns a professional contract, along with the opportunity to play in the NHL. And unlike Peter, Tobias hails from the small city of Piteå (hometown of Tomas Holmstrom, Mattias Ohlund, Mikael Renberg and Lars Lindgren), in the northern region of Sweden.

Tobias currently plays for the Swedish Hockey Factory, more formally known as MoDo’s Senior Elitserien club in Örnsköldsvik, where the likes of Markus Naslund, twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Peter Forsberg played before him. Aside from his older brother, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tobias singles out Peter as one of his biggest role models.

“Peter Forsberg has always been a role model for me. He has everything a hockey player would want and I also admire his humble attitude,” said Tobias via email. It may come as a surprise that Peter chose to leave his hometown in favor of returning to the NHL, because according to Tobias, he is held at the highest regard in Örnsköldsvik.

“Peter is like a god here in Örnsköldsvik. The things he has accomplished in his career are fantastic. He has also done many things outside the hockey for this town. For example our new arena wouldn’t exist without his help.”

Before Peter unexpectedly signed with the Avalanche on the eve of the much anticipated 2008 NHL trading deadline, he had been practicing with MoDo over the past several weeks, and Tobias had certainly taken notice.

“I just tried to watch and learn as much as possible,” said Tobias, who played four years of junior hockey in his hometown of Piteå, before joining MoDo this season.

If a hockey follower in North America were to hear about a Forsberg currently playing for MoDo in the Swedish Elite League, it would only be natural to assume that this Forsberg was somehow related to the renowned Peter Forsberg. However, this is surprisingly not the case.

“Yes, that’s a very common question,” said Tobias when asked how often he gets asked if he’s related to Peter. “But Örnsköldsvik is such a small town so everyone who lives here knows that we aren’t related.”

And the similarities don’t end with the last name. Both Peter and Tobias have scored celebrated goals against Team Canada in international competition. For Peter, it was in the ’94 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway at what time he scored the gold medal winning goal against goaltender Corey Hirsch in a penalty shootout. To this day, Peter’s one-handed cross-crease drag deke has not been forgotten.

Tobias’ goal, which came this past December in the World Junior U20 Championships, may not have been just as sexy, but it was undoubtedly a goal that brought the entire Swedish nation to its feet. In Sweden’s preliminary round match up against the Canadians, after a costly defensive breakdown, Mikael Backlund found Tobias Forsberg for the game-winner with seven ticks left on the clock. Tobias’ goal completed the comeback and clinched the victory for the Swedes, while at the same time ending Canada’s 20-game win streak.

“The whole tournament was an unbelievable event and I learned much both on the ice and as a person beside it. The games against Canada were by far the most fun games to play,” said Tobias. “My goal was of course something really special and the most important of my career so far. We had a great team and it felt really sad to leave the boys when it all was over.”

Forsberg and the Swedes met Team Canada again in the gold medal game and had the opportunity to compound the heartbreak for the Canadians and end their three year World Junior Championships win streak. Instead, Matt Halischuk scored four minutes into the overtime period and extended the Canadians’ win streak to four years. As Forsberg explains, Halischuk’s goal was definitely a tough pill to swallow.

“Before the final we knew we had a tough game ahead and I will never forget the feeling when they scored in overtime. After all, we came to win the gold,” he said.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that hockey players in Europe don’t care much for the National Hockey League. As Forsberg explains, this is certainly not the case, at least for him.

“I try to follow it as much as possible using the internet to watch clips and read news. Of course it’s fun to hear about the many great Swedes that are playing in the NHL right now and I think Henrik Zetterberg, among many others, is a great player. Beside the Swedes, I like Alexander Ovechkin,” said the 6-foot, 185 pound right winger.

Before too long, Forsberg won’t have to use the internet to look up information on the NHL anymore, because if everything goes to plan, he will be the proud member of an NHL team this summer. As Forsberg – who was ranked 83rd among European skaters in Central Scouting’s midseason 2008 rankings – looks forward to the upcoming playoffs with MoDo, he also looks forward to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

“I’ve heard from some teams through my agent and I look forward to the draft,” said Forsberg, who has played 31 games with the MoDo senior club and 11 games with the MoDo J20 top junior circuit club this season. “Of course it’s a dream to go as early as possible but I actually haven’t thought about that much. My dream and ambition is to play in the NHL and the draft is one way to get there.”

And what type of player will the NHL team that chooses Forsberg be getting?

“I try to play with high speed and with big toughness,” said Tobias. “I also try to challenge a lot with the puck and maybe this is my best quality.”

It would be foolish and unfair to say that Tobias Forsberg will ever become the superstar that his namesake is; however, Tobias has definitely chosen the right person to follow in the footsteps of and is well on his way to making a name for himself.

Farhan Devji is the author of a hockey based novel, “The Hockey Farmer,” available and described at cacoethespublishing.net.

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