Forsberg Flies From Philly

Feb 18, 2007 - 3:19 PM (C) 2007 SPORTSTICKER ENTERPRISES, L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ------------------------------------------------------------

By Scott Erskine PA SportsTicker Hockey Editor

There has been little affection in the City of Brotherly Love this winter. One of the few things Philadelphia Flyers fans have had to warmly embrace was their captain, Peter Forsberg.

Now, the Broad Street faithful don't even have that.

After weeks of speculation on whether or not Forsberg would be re-signed or traded, the Flyers on Thursday put an end to the questions by dealing the Swedish superstar to the Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators for a pair of former first-round picks (Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent) and two selections (first- and third-rounders) in the upcoming June draft.

Forsberg became the sixth former Hart Trophy winner to be dealt during a season, joining Phil Esposito, Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov and Jose Theodore.

Even though the Flyers have been occupying the basement in the NHL standings for much of the season, Forsberg averaged a point per game, collecting 11 goals and 29 assists in 40 contests. But much like last campaign, his first after signing a two-year, $11.5 million contract in the summer of 2005, the five-time All-Star was beset with injuries, the most annoying being a foot ailment that has plagued him since the offseason.

Selected five spots after Eric Lindros was taken first overall by Quebec in 1991, Forsberg has missed 16 contests thus far this season with foot problems, as well as groin and back ailments and a mild concussion. But the 33-year-old has had a strong February, registering two goals and eight assists in six games.

In fact, Forsberg has been playing so well that Philadelphia put any trade thoughts on hold while attempting to re-sign the 1995 Calder Trophy winner to a new contract. But the veteran balked at the notion, citing the uncertainty of the condition of his foot - and not the Flyers' dismal performance this season - as the reason.

"Believe me, it's been a tough year," he said. "Losing, that is just one part, but the foot and not being able to do my best. For me, playing hockey is that you've got to go out and play your best and give 100 percent every night.

"I felt some games, I didn't know where I was going on the ice because of how bad my foot fit in the skate. I would try to go out and play physical, and it was hard. I don't need to put myself in that position again. I played for a long time and I've had a lot of surgeries. I don't think I am going to put myself through that again if my foot doesn't feel 100 percent."

Despite a first-round loss to Buffalo in the 2006 conference quarterfinals and a league-worst 33 setbacks at the time of the trade, Forsberg was not discouraged by his team's current state.

"I'm not disappointed about the Flyers, absolutely not," he said. "I am a big part of why we were winning, and I know that, and we were playing really good last year until all the injuries hit us. We were leading the league there halfway through the year. Injuries kept on hitting us - (Keith) Primeau went down and everybody else, and I'm not saying that I am mad about anything here.

"I had a good time here. Unfortunately, we didn't win."

While Forsberg refused to ink a new deal with the Flyers, he did the honorable thing by waiving the no-trade clause in his contract in order for the team to get something in return for the former Art Ross Trophy winner.

"I felt like I was being fair to give up my no-trade clause and go somewhere," he said. "They get something for me and I get to go to a good team. It kind of worked out the way we planned it. I liked it here (in Philadelphia) and everything, but it's kind of hard. I couldn't commit and that's why (Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren) had to move me, and I understand that."

Playing on a line with All-Star Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble certainly agreed with Forsberg, and the two-time Olympic gold-medal winner did not rule out a return to Philadelphia once the free-agency period begins on July 1.

"I had two of the best teammates anyone could ask for in Simon Gagne and Knuble in those two years," Forsberg said. "I think we fit each other perfectly. It is very sad to leave them. If I were looking for a line in the future, I'd love to play with them again.

"We'll see what happens. There are a lot of things that can happen before the First of July, but one thing is certain - I am not going to sign with anyone before the First of July."

But Flyers fans should not get their hopes up quite yet. With the status of his foot in question, Forsberg not only could not commit to Philadelphia, but he is not certain he will play anywhere next season if the problem persists.

"I am going to evaluate this summer how I feel and if I am going to continue to play," he said. "Re-signing for me right now would be out of the question. That is why (the Flyers) are moving me."

One thing Forsberg can be thankful for is the fact Philadelphia found a trading partner that has a real chance to challenge for the Stanley Cup. Fans on the Predators' message board are elated, chiming in with comments such as "adding Forsberg to this Preds team will turn them into a force to be wreckoned with" and "it proves to the people of Nashville that they are serious about (winning) a Cup."

With two championships already under his belt, Forsberg and the Predators are hoping he completes the hat trick in Music City.

CAPTAIN KEITH SPEAKS: Concussions put a premature end to the career of Keith Primeau. But the former Philadelphia Flyers captain has shown no bitterness.

The Flyers honored Primeau during a pregame ceremony on Monday, when they faced the Detroit Red Wings, the club that drafted the hulking center third overall in 1990. During his speech, Primeau exuded the typical class that he displayed throughout his 15-year career.

"When the Flyers first brought to me this idea, I tried to think what this night is about, and for me, this night is about the opportunity for me to say thank you to all those people who had influences on my life and my career," he said.

Primeau went on to thank his family and the Red Wings organization before turning his attention to the Broad Street Bullies.

"To the Philadelphia Flyers, my teammates, Mr. Bob Clarke and Mr. Ed Snider, who have been more than gracious to me and my family for which we can never repay them for their generosity and support and for their faith and confidence they showed in me, thank you," he said.

Finally, the 35-year-old Toronto native addressed the faithful fans of the City of Brotherly Love, who he gave the most appreciation.

"For me, the most important thank you of this evening, and why I stand here so humbly," Primeau began. "I learned early on during my stay in Philadelphia that you need not be the most talented, the most skilled, the best goal-scorer or the best playmaker. But if you play with passion, desire and a blue-collar attitude, you would and could be embraced more than you could ever imagine.

"I took great pride in putting on my Flyers jersey because I felt as though every time I did, I had your support. I will always give credit to the fans in Philadelphia for creating my identity as a player and as a person, and for that, I humbly thank you."

For this Flyers fan, it was a sad day when Primeau hung up his skates. Too young to appreciate the job Bobby Clarke did as captain of the team, I never felt prouder to root for the club that gave the leadership role to Primeau than I did during the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he basically singlehandedly led the Flyers to within one victory of the Finals, putting the squad on his back and scoring important goal after important goal.

Your services truly will be missed in Philadelphia, Keith, and if you do not get inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame, I will revoke my dedication to the Flyers forever.

KINGS TO VISIT QUEEN?: The NHL already has invaded Japan. Now, it has its sights set on jolly old England.

According to Los Angeles Kings vice president of communications Mike Altieri, talks have begun on the possibility his team will play the first two games of the 2007-08 season in London.

"It is definitely being discussed, but nothing is finalized yet," Altieri told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.

The newspaper reported the games would take place at the 02 Arena, which is being built by AEG, a company that owns the Kings. An opponent has yet to be chosen, but the Times cited sources that claimed the Anaheim Ducks or Vancouver Canucks are the most likely to make the trek across the Atlantic.

In 1997-98, Anaheim and Vancouver opened the campaign with a pair of contests in Tokyo. The following season, the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames followed suit.

On October 28, the NFL's Miami Dolphins and New York Giants will play a regular-season game at Wembley Stadium.

NEW LINE OF WORK: Scott Young did not have to wait long to find a new profession.

Young, who ended his 17-year career following the 2005-06 season, is the director of development for FASTHockey, a web site that specializes in amateur hockey and player recruiting.

FASTHockey allows amateur players to market themselves to recruiters around the world, creating opportunities to play at a higher level. It also gives coaches and recruiters a source that alleviates the cost of normal recruiting procedures.

More than 4,000 players were registered as of late 2006, as well as over 300 coaches and recruiters.

"FASTHockey fundamentally changes how amateur hockey players are discovered and recruited," said Young, a three-time U.S. Olympian and two-time Stanley Cup winner. "No longer is it cost-prohibitive for players to market themselves to a wide range of programs. Nor are coaches limited to looking at just a handful of players because of their recruiting budget.

"As a result, FASTHockey is creating truly new recruiting opportunities for both sides."

Several other former NHLers are on board. Marty McInnis, a veteran of over 800 games, and ex-Olympians David Jensen and Ted Crowley are investors and strategic advisors to the company.

"We are thrilled to have assembled such an impressive team of hockey people to launch and grow FASTHockey," founder and CEO Marc Ruskin said. "It validates the idea that there's a better way for players and coaches to engage in recruiting. ... We envision a day when we're the platform for all amateur sports recruiting."

TIP-INS: Bryan Murray of the Ottawa Senators moved within one win of becoming the fifth coach in NHL history to reach the 600-victory plateau when his club rallied for a 5-3 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday. With his next win, Murray will join Dick Irvin, Al Arbour, Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn in the exclusive club. ... Brett Hull was honored by the St. Louis Blues prior to Friday's victory over the Nashville Predators, as the team and City of St. Louis announced Clark Avenue - a street in which the Scottrade Center resides - soon will be renamed "Brett Hull Way." Along with Hull, former Blues Bernie Federko, Perry Turnbull, Rick Zombo, Bruce Racine and Peter Stastny were present for the dedication. "Brett Hull Way is just one of the ways we can thank Brett for his time here in St. Louis," Blues president John Davidson said on Thursday. "Every fan who attends a Blues game at Scottrade Center will walk by Brett Hull Way before entering the building. This is an honor for the entire Blues organization to have his name associated with our home building." ... A number of teams were in the giving mood recently. The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche raised over $10,000 for the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation during their game last Sunday, when contributions were made by players and coaches from each team based on their on-ice performances. The Washington Capitals helped raise $12,000 for The Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health and Washington Capitals Charities by playing for more than two hours at a local driving range, which was heated. "It's a good chance to do something away from the rink, have some fun and help a great cause," Capitals captain Chris Clark said. "Golfing in February is a little different, but it was a lot of fun." While also filling in for starter Olaf Kolzig in net, Washington backup goaltender Brent Johnson announced he would join the former Vezina Trophy winner in raising funds for Athletes Against Autism through Olie's and Elliot's Great Saves Program. During the absence of Kolzig, who is sidelined with a knee injury, Johnson will contribute $2 for every save, $100 for each win and $200 for every shutout he records. "I'd like to pick up where Olie left off," Johnson said. "Besides being goaltending partners with Olie, we have a great friendship as well. I know how much Triple A means to him, and I'd like to do my part." DC101 morning show host Elliot Segal, who is Kolzig's partner in the program, will match Johnson's donations dollar for dollar. The Florida Panthers Foundation raised more than $150,000 for local charities during the team's second annual Ice & Dice Casino Night on Thursday. Panthers captain Olli Jokinen and his teammates worked as card dealers at the event, which was attended by over 500 guests. "All of my fellow Panthers teammates, coaches and staff members were proud to donate their time to a worthwhile event such as Ice & Dice," Jokinen said. "While success on the ice is our goal, it is just as important to support the South Florida community with great events such as this one." ... The Detroit Red Wings Foundation is sponsoring the Detroit Hockey Association's Hockey In The Hood Tournament III this weekend at Jack Adams Memorial Arena. Teams from cities such as Buffalo, Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh, as well as the host Detroit Hockey Association Dragons, are participating in the tournament, which also is featuring an appearance by Willie O'Ree, the first African-American to play in the NHL. ... United Hockey League president Richard Brosal announced his resignation, which is effective at the end of the season, on Tuesday. The 47-year-old Brosal, who joined the UHL in March 1997, is leaving to become executive vice president of sales and marketing for B2 Networks, a company that deals in international television and video broadcasting systems. ... USA Hockey on Wednesday announced the preliminary national team roster for the 2007 Women's World Hockey Championship. A total of 11 Olympians were named to the roster, including captain Krissy Wendell, Julie Chu, Natalie Darwitz and Angela Ruggiero. ... Several women's hockey school records were matched by Quinnipiac sophomores Hayley McMeekin and Jennifer MacLean in a 2-1 loss to Cornell on Friday. McMeekin scored Quinnipiac's lone goal to tie Vicky Graham's marks of 14 tallies and 29 points in a season, while MacLean set up the goal for her 15th assists, matching the record held by Graham and McMeekin. ... Congratulations to the families of San Jose Sharks teammates Evgeni Nabokov and Curtis Brown for their new additions. Tabitha Nabokov gave birth to son Andrei on Monday, while Ami Brown brought son Griffin into the world Friday. For the Nabokovs, Andrei is their second child and first son, while Griffin joins two other boys in the Brown household.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!