Joel Lundqvist was born in 1982. His Frolunda has won four Swedish titles since 1965: 2003, 2005, 2016, and 2019. Joel Lundqvist has been on all four teams. No wonder he’s revered.
This year, Frolunda beat Stockholm’s Djurgarden in the final, and clinched the title with a convincing 6-2 win in Game 6.
It was the first win by a road team in the series and while it was a close series, Frolunda beat Djurgarden clearly in the last two games, winning both 6-2.
The hero of Game 6 was Max Friberg who flourished in the playoffs. He scored only 22 points in 52 regular season games but potted then eight goals and 16 points in 16 games in the playoffs.
“Unreal, this is something I’ve dreamed of. Unbelievable,” he told Swedish SVT.
Lundqvist picked up an assist to Friberg’s second goal, the 5-2 goal with three minutes remaining. It crushed Djurgarden’s hopes of a comeback.
“It’s hard to rank the different titles, they all have their special stories. It was good to win one early on, to get recognition, but maybe I enjoy and appreciate winning a little more as a veteran player,” Lundqvist told Swedish Expressen.
“This is the best feeling an athlete can have. Winning,” he added.
Lundqvist is the team’s undisputed leader, and not only for his leadership qualities. He finished third in team scoring in the regular season, with 31 points in 51 games, and added six goals and 13 points in the playoffs.
But there’s no denying that his importance is not measured only in points.
“When the kids see the work [captain] Joel Lundqvist puts in at the gym and on the ice, that really pushes them forward,” Ryan Lasch told IIHF.com after the CHL final.
Lasch himself was named playoffs MVP. He lead the league in scoring with six goals and 19 points. The skilled playmaker once again scored a big goal when it mattered the most when he gave Frolunda 2-0 lead just seven minutes into the game.
Just like in 2016, Lundqvist got to hoist two championship trophies this season as the Gothenburg team also grabbed the Champions Hockey League title in February. The club is one of Europe’s hockey powerhouses … but it hasn’t always been so.
As late as the beginning of this decade, Frolunda was bleeding money, accumulating losses totalling almost seven million euro between 2010 and 2013. On the ice, things weren’t much better. They missed the playoffs once and were ousted in the first round twice.
If anything, Frolunda had become the worst kind of a team. They were mediocre.
“We realized that we didn’t have a defined vision and values to support it. We didn’t know what our fundamental values were,” said CEO Christian Lechtaler, a Gothenburg native and a former Frolunda player told European hockey executives at the EHC Business Forum, now flocking to Frolunda’s Frolundaborg campus to study how things should be done.
“It took two years for us to define the values. It takes patience, and it requires a commitment from everyone in the organization.”
And then, in their third year after the shake-up, Frolunda won the Swedish championship and the Champions Hockey League title. They defended their CHL title successfully 2017.
According to coach Roger Ronnberg, who arrived in Frolunda in 2013 and has a deal until 2021-22, the secret is patience.
“I’ve been here for six years, and we’ve only won one SHL title,” Ronnberg told the executives last fall.
And yet, he got a contract extension.
“It’s all about development, and if we don’t score goals I can’t go to the GM and tell him I need a scoring winger. He’ll tell me to teach the players and use the resources we have. Use a skating coach, use the sports psychologist,” he explained.
“But the players have to buy in, character is very important.”
And when your team’s 37-year-old captain uses his summer with a skating coach to get better, the rest will follow.
“Joel Lundqvist checks about every box about we want in a player’s character,” Ronnberg said.