Remembering Forsberg’s 31
by Andrew Podnieks|01 JAN 2023
Despite the magic of Connor Bedard at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, the single-tournament point record of Peter Forsberg from 1993 may never be broken.
photo: Jani Rajamaki / Europhoto
Numbers separate best from worst, top from bottom, good from bad. But sometimes numbers collide. Consider Eric Lindros and now Connor Bedard co-hold the Canadian record at the U20 with 31 career points. Lindros achieved his 31 over 21 games and three tournaments (1990-92) while Bedard has reached the same plateau in just 13 games. Consider also that the single tournament record for points is also 31, by Peter Forsberg in 1993, in just seven games. 

Interestingly, Lindros and Forsberg faced each other in their crossover year, 1992, when Canada and Sweden played to a 2-2 tie on 29 December 1991, in Kaufbeuren, Germany. In that game Forsberg had an assist and Lindros was held off the scoresheet. The game ended in dramatic fashion, however. Canada led 2-1 with 14 seconds left in the game, a faceoff in their end, and Sweden with six skaters. The Swedes won the faceoff and tied the game at 19:53. They went on to win the silver medal, while Canada finished a disappointing sixth.

The next year, Lindros, the biggest junior star in the world, was in the NHL while the 19-year-old Forsberg was back with the Swedish U20 national team at the 1993 World Juniors on home ice, principally Gavle. He was playing with MODO Ornskoldsvik in the top Swedish league and had been drafted 6th overall in 1991, the same draft made famous by Lindros going 1st overall but refusing to play for the team that drafted him, the Quebec Nordiques.

Of course, the record books shows that Forsberg tore the ’93 tournament apart in historic terms, but time has washed away another aspect of that event – comments made by Forsberg that possibly cost his team a gold medal. 

But first, the record.

Sweden opened the ’93 World Juniors with a 4-2 win over Germany, in Gavle. “Foppa” recorded two assists. Just 24 hours later, they played Canada and lost, 5-4, but Forsberg was dominant, scoring once and adding three assists, and doing everything in his power to lead his team. It wasn’t quite enough.

Two days later, he had four more assists in a 7-2 win over the Czech and Slovak Republics. This was at the time Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and for this tournament they agreed to play “independently together,” as it were. Then, on 30 December, Forsberg had his Darryl Sittler moment, recording a hat trick and adding seven assists – ten points in all – in a 20-1 thrashing of Japan, which was playing in its first – and, to this day, only – World Juniors. The Japanese finished last with an 0-7 record and allowed 83 goals in seven games. They were demoted and haven’t been back to the top pool since.

"Peter the Great" was hardly done, though. He had two more assists in a 4-2 win over the United States, a game played in Uppsala, and a day later, back in Gavle, he had another hat trick and a couple of helpers in a 9-2 route of rivals Finland. Sweden closed out the eight-team round robin on 4 January with an impressive 5-1 win over Russia, Forsberg recording four more assists to finish the tournament with seven goals, 24 assists, 31 points.

But back to that Canada game for a minute. That was Sweden’s only loss of the event while Canada also lost once, to Czech and Slovak Republics, 7-4, on the final day. But Canada knew even before puck drop that it had won gold because to tie Sweden atop the standings meant gold for Canada and silver for Sweden because of the head-to-head result.

The back story to the Sweden-Canada game is where things were interesting. Prior to the game, Forsberg boasted that Sweden had the “better skaters... and we are going to beat them.” He said Canada “was not so good.”

Canadian coach Perry Pearn posted these words in the dressing room, and after Canada’s impressive 5-4 win commented: “I would like to know what Peter Forsberg thinks of our team now.”

But after the game the Canadian players suggested it wasn’t Forsberg’s words that made the difference but a forceful speech by Pearn himself during the first intermission. Sweden led 1-0 after 20 minutes and Canada was playing poorly. Pearn got them going, and they scored three in the second and built a 4-2 lead early in the third.

In the end, Forsberg’s 1993 tournament remains in a league of its own. His 10-point game, 24 tournament assists, and 31 tournament points have been records for three decades now, and they are likely to remain so for another three decades.