[Ed. Note: I hope you are enjoying PJ Axelsson day on Stanley Cup of Chowder today! I asked Patrik of (shudder) Habs Eyes on the Prize to recount his favorite memories of Per-Johan Axelsson. Here's what he shared.]
Having grown up in Göteborg with Frölunda as my team and P.J. Axelsson as one of the players that the team leaned on, not only on the ice but also off the ice as well. He is what’s in Sweden in general and in Göteborg in particular known as a "Go Gubbe" (a good guy, with a weird or wicked sense of humour depending on where you are from).
While I remember PJ in Frölunda before he left for NHL, but having been limited to only one beer and two memories, the Championship winning team for Frölunda in 2005 is probably the best team Frölunda has ever lined up. Alfredsson, Lundqvist (his last year before NHL), Påhlsson among a core of Frölunda players went on to win the last championship for the club in an SHL season that was stacked due to the lockout in NHL (at this time Frölunda had seven players from the Swedish national team, three from the Finnish and one from the Swiss).
While everyone was waiting for Axelsson to start playing, there was never a doubt that PJ would return, with his laugh and overall fantastic personality. For me, this win was important for Axelsson, Alfredsson and Michael Andersson (of Hartford, Tampa and Philadelphia over a long NHL career). The three A’s never really winning in NHL finally got to be winners in their home club, winning on a sudden death goal at home.
I seem to remember the snus under his upper lip being bigger.
The best memory I have of PJ is his winning goal in a classic come from behind win, 1-5 down to Finland in the 2005 World Championships. Where in Finland’s team players such as Koivu and Selänne was present, and Sundin was leading the troops for Sweden it was a goal by PJ that sealed the comeback tipping in a soft shot from the blue line with 4:54 to go in the third period. In a very understated and typical PJ fashion, it was Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg that got the headlines along with Mikael Tellkvist (coming into goal when 5-1 down). Hartwall Arena in Helsinki was silent, the Finnish players looked shell-shocked and it was PJ dance and figure skating after the goal that I remember from that match.
PJ was also part of the group that managed to win the Olympics and Worlds the same year for the first time in history. While we all know of the Olympic tournament, the World Championships was held in Riga (Latvia) and was also stacked with talent, let’s just say that players as Malkin, Ovechkin and Crosby was part of the tournament. Sweden won it, and PJ was part of the team both times. Having never won the Stanely Cup, he has a Swedish Championship, a Olympic Gold and a World Championship all collected in more or less 13 months.
But what I remember him from is the guy that never complained, always with a laugh and a practical joke, and of course the winning goal against Finland in 2005.
[Thanks again to Patrik for sharing the swedish view of PJ Axelsson! Here, with Swedish announcer, is PJ breaking the spirit of Finland.]