Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s just one example of how this quiet northern Swedish city of 33,000 consistently punches above its weight in both professional and international hockey. And with Ornskoldsvik co-hosting the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship with Umea, it’s time to pay tribute.
In celebration of 2019, here are 19 great Ornskoldsvik moments.
1) Hedberg Rules WHA (1976)
In 2016, Wayne Gretzky told the New York Times about Glen Sather’s blueprint for the 1980’s Edmonton Oilers: “He idolized what the Winnipeg Jets did in the World Hockey Association with Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Lars-Erik Sjoberg and Bobby Hull.” Hedberg, born in Ornskoldsvik in 1951 and inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997, had many stellar seasons in North America. But 1976 was truly a banner year for the talented right wing from Modo AIK (now Modo Hockey), as he scored 50 goals, made the WHA’s First All-Star Team, won his first Avco Cup with the Jets, and represented Sweden at the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup.
2) Modo Wins First Championship (1979)
Ornskoldsvik’s sports club was founded in 1921, but it took 58 years for the hockey team to win its first Swedish title. Defeating Djurgarden, Sweden’s most successful club of all time, remains an indelible memory for longtime Modo fans. In addition to Elitserien goals leader Per Lundqvist, the Modo roster included future NHLers like Tomas Jonsson, Mikko Leinonen, and Lars Molin.
3) Molin Becomes First Modo Player in Stanley Cup Final (1982)
Even though the New York Islanders swept the Vancouver Canucks in four straight games to win their third Stanley Cup, just making the final was an unforgettable first for both the Canucks and Ornskoldsvik-raised forward Lars Molin. Four of the 26-year-old’s 11 playoff points came versus the Islanders. Molin would go on to win gold with Tre Kronor at the 1987 Worlds.
4) Forsberg and Naslund Rewrite World Junior Record Book (1993)
Peter Forsberg wowed IIHF fans, NHL scouts, and the international media when he set records with 24 assists and 31 points at the 1993 World Juniors in Gavle, Sweden. The future Hall of Famer’s linemates were fellow “Ovik” natives Markus Naslund, whose record of 13 goals also still stands, and Niklas Sundstrom. The only downside was that this stacked Swedish roster settled for the silver medal behind Canada.
5) “Foppa” Gets Golden Shootout Goal in Lillehammer (1994)
When your feat is immortalized on a Swedish postage stamp, you must be doing something right. Forsberg, of course, scored the decisive shootout goal on a one-handed move versus Canada’s Corey Hirsch at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It was Sweden’s first Olympic hockey gold ever, and this robust, creative centre was already an icon at age 21.
6) Triple Gold Club Welcomes Forsberg (1996)
Interestingly, Forsberg wasn’t the first ex-Modo player to win an Olympics, IIHF World Championship, and Stanley Cup. That honour went to Tomas Jonsson, who entered the Triple Gold Club with Hakan Loob and Mats Naslund in Lillehammer. However, when the Colorado Avalanche won their first Cup in 1996, Forsberg became the youngest player ever to earn membership at 22 years and 325 days. His record would stand until 2010, when Jonathan Toews captained the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup at 22 years and 42 days.
7) Forsberg Earns Best Forward and All-Star Honors at Worlds (1998)
Forsberg was an important contributor when he won his first IIHF World Championship in Czechoslovakia in 1992. He scored four goals and two assists, including the opening goal in the 5-2 final win over Finland. However, he took his game to another level at the 1998 Worlds in Switzerland. After the Edmonton Oilers eliminated his Avalanche in a first-round shocker, Forsberg led Tre Kronor to gold with a tournament-high six goals and 11 points, and won all the available individual honours, even outshining Mats Sundin.
8) Sedin Brothers Become Co-MVP’s of Swedish League (1999)
It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago, but yes, that’s when a pair of baby-faced identical twins tore up the Elitserien in their second full season with Modo Hockey. Left wing Daniel Sedin had 21 goals and 21 assists, while centre Henrik Sedin added 12 goals and 22 assists. They followed in the footsteps of Forsberg, who’d won the Guldpucken in 1993 and 1994. Already ultra-creative, the playmaking brothers were still years away from peaking as pros.
9) Women Win Historic Olympic Bronze (2002)
Before the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the Swedish Olympic Committee considered not sending a women’s team. The Damkronorna had finished a disappointing seventh at the 2001 IIHF Women’s World Championship. However, they came through big-time in Salt Lake City. The Swedes beat Finland 2-1 in the bronze medal game for their first Winter Games medal ever. The roster included such Modo Hockey players as Therese Sjolander and Anna Vikman.
10) Ornskoldsvik Dominates NHL Scoring Race (2003)
Considering the small population of Ornskoldsvik, it’s stunning to think that on 6 April, 2003, two of its native sons were neck-and-neck for the Art Ross Trophy. Peter Forsberg scored a goal and two assists in Colorado’s season-closing 5-2 win over St. Louis to become the first Swede ever to lead the NHL in scoring (106 points). His old buddy Markus Naslund, the captain of the Vancouver Canucks and a fellow NHL First All-Star Team member, finished in second place (104 points). Talk about unprecedented.
11) Modo Men Capture Olympic Gold in Turin (2006)
Superstar defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom scored the winning goal and top goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves when Sweden edged Finland 3-2 to earn the 2006 Olympic gold medal. However, the Tre Kronor roster was also loaded with Modo products. Forsberg and the Sedins were the obvious names, but checking forward Samuel Pahlsson chipped in two goals and two assists as well. Pahlsson, then with Anaheim, already had six seasons with Modo under his belt, and would play three more years in Ornskoldsvik before retiring in 2015.
12) “Ovik” Takes Pride in Women’s Olympic Silver (2006)
On the biggest stage for women’s hockey, no European nation has ever topped Sweden’s achievement in Turin. The Damkronorna shocked the U.S. with a 3-2 semi-final shootout victory before losing 4-1 to Canada, the defending Olympic champion, in the gold medal game. In addition to Therese Sjolander and Anna Vikman, who returned from 2002, this squad had Modo players like Emma Eliasson, Frida Nevalainen and Kristina Lundberg. Also, Ann-Louise Edstrand was born in Ornskoldsvik.
13) Fjallraven Center Opens (2006)
Fjallraven Center, the 7,350-capacity home of Modo Hockey, is a state-of-the-art facility by any measure, but it’s particularly impressive for a city of 33,000. With a picturesque location by the Gulf of Bothnia, the venue for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship has also attracted many concerts over the years, from hard rockers like Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy to Swedish artists like Lars Winnerback and Jessica Andersson.
14) Svartvadet’s Goal Gives Modo Title (2007)
Per Svartvadet, a veteran of 247 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers, had a dream season back in Sweden. The 31-year-old Modo captain, who won the Guldpucken, led the playoffs with eight goals and 18 assists. Svartvadet scored the winning goal on a 2-on-1 rush in Game Six of the final against Linkoping. When the team returned home, thousands of fans greeted them at the airport, and the victory party included bottles of Dom Perignon contributed by (naturally) Peter Forsberg.
15) Sedins Bag Back-to-Back Scoring Titles (2010, 2011)
Let’s just say that two twin brothers winning back-to-back NHL scoring titles with the same team is even more unlikely than the shared Guldpucken in 1999. Henrik, the Vancouver captain, racked up 110 points in his Hart Trophy MVP year of 2010. Daniel’s 104 points in 2011 didn’t get him the Hart, but his fellow NHLers voted him the Ted Lindsay Award winner instead. The brothers, who came within a hair’s-breadth of capturing the Stanley Cup with Vancouver’s 2011 Game Seven loss to the Boston Bruins, were well on their way to becoming the only Ornskoldsvik members of the NHL’s 1,000-point club in 2017.
There was a reason they called it a curse. No host team had won the IIHF World Championship since the Soviet Union in Moscow in 1986. However, the Sedins ended that 27-year drought when Tre Kronor airlifted them in for the 2013 Worlds. Sweden defeated Switzerland 5-1 in the gold medal game. Henrik had nine points in just four games and made the tournament all-star team, while Daniel chipped in six points.
17) Modo Alumni Take Gold in Cologne (2017)
Sweden has gotten tremendous support from its top players en route to IIHF World Championship gold medals in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 team featured tournament MVP William Nylander, who played 43 games for Modo over two seasons before joining Toronto. The 21-year-old led coach Rikard Gronborg’s team with 14 points. Also on the Cologne roster was star defenceman Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The former SHL rookie of the year (2009) with Modo served as an assistant captain and scored the opening goal in the 2-1 shootout final win over Canada.
18) Hedman Wins Norris Trophy (2018)
At age 28, Hedman has just been nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman for the third year in a row. He became the first Ornskoldsvik native to win it last year with his 63-point campaign. While the towering blueliner is disappointed that his league-leading Lightning got swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets, he’s still in his prime, and will likely win both a Stanley Cup and another Norris Trophy – at least – before hanging ‘em up.
19) Ornskoldsvik Hosts the U18 Worlds (2019)
It’s been a stellar run so far as Ornskoldsvik hosts its first IIHF tournament. Can host Sweden make history with its first U18 gold medal? Is it time for Jack Hughes and his American teammates to hoist the trophy again? Or will Canada end up on top for the first time since 2013? There are many exciting potential scenarios, but regardless, Ornskoldsvik is doing itself proud as it showcases the next generation of hockey heroes.