Monday, February 14, 2011

Dater's Heart Broken on Valentine's Day: Forsberg Retires

I am one of what appears to be a distinct minority of fans who has been annoyingly pessimistic about the Forsberg comeback, pretty much ever since he returned from Sweden to practice with the Avalanche. I saw how he looked during the 2010 Olympics (where he was flat-out awful, to the point of hurting his team); I followed what he was doing in Sweden, where he couldn't seem to stay injury-free even playing in a league full of floppin' Swedes... and when he said he was trying for a comeback, I just felt in my bones it would not turn out well. I was worried that he'd end up discouraged, his fans would end up disappointed, the Avalanche would end up distracted, and that ultimately he'd only be good to sell tickets.

Unfortunately, I was correct on all counts except for the ticket thing, because he never even stepped on home ice in front of the Colorado fans before announcing his retirement. As it turned out, I wish I'd been right about that part, too, for at least one night, as I think it would have been a nice gesture for Forsberg to appear at least once in Denver to let his fans send him off right. The fact that Forsberg realized he could not compete did not surprise me, but it happened earlier than even earlier than I would have guessed, as it apparently took only two games to convince the man, at long last, that his foot simply could not handle the NHL game.

There were many who seemed to think Forsberg looked good in the two games he played, and I must admit that at times, he looked far better than I every would have guessed he might. But then again, there were shifts in those games where he just looked bad... not bad for Forsberg, but bad, period. He couldn't hold his own on the ice, and he couldn't defend the space around him because he was just very, very easy to push around... and if there was anything Forsberg never could be described as, it would be "very easy to push around."

Dater must have taken this especially hard, considering that not twelve hours earlier he'd publicly outed himself as a Foppa fanboy (it was always a bit of an open secret, anyway). He puts a brave face on and sucks it up, though, and offers a fairly straightforward article that builds on his observations from the Predators game (and afterward), doing a good job of convincing the reader that this announcement was a surprise to everybody, perhaps even to Forsberg himself. Dater makes good use of quotes, both from teammates and coach Sacco, to keep this article moving forward, and overall it's a pretty good effort. Yeah, there's some Forsberg love, and it's clear Dater is going to carry a torch for the guy for quite a while, but when one of the best players of his era retires, there's a spot in good journalism for a slow-motion, soft focus fade to black.

Grade: A

Full disclosure: I'm a long-time Red Wings fan first, an Avs fan a somewhat distant second. But in my opinion, Peter Forsberg in the mid-late 90s was the best hockey player on the planet, full stop. I think Sergei Fedorov came very, very close in talent, skill, and accomplishment, but overall Forsberg gets the nod. Fedorov probably surpassed Forsberg in raw ability, to tell the truth, but what Fedorov never really had was that which made a gimpy 37-year-old Forsberg fly back to Denver and practice for three weeks, just to play 30 more painful and fruitless minutes in the NHL: the absolute lust to play hockey at its highest level, and to flatten anybody who dared try to keep him from that goal. Some say that Forsberg will be missed, but I've missed the guy for years. Good  luck, Peter, and thanks.

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