Showing their skill
A look at Europeans who have made their mark on the NHL
It’s hard to imagine the National Hockey League without its European stars, but until the late 1970s, there were few players from outside North America in the world’s top league.
The 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union opened many eyes to how far European hockey had come and the emergence of the World Hockey Association in the 1970s gave many a platform to show their skills. Now there are Europeans on every NHL club.
In the latest edition of NHL 100, a weekly series from The Canadian Press, we look at Europeans who have made their mark.
The highly skilled defenceman became the first European to become an impact player in the NHL when he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973. The Swede went on to play 1,148 games over 17 seasons and was named to the Hockey
Hall of Fame in 1996.
ANDERS HEDBERG AND ULF NILSSON
Any doubt that Europeans could shine in North America was dispelled by the Swedish duo that joined the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets in 1974, skating on a line with superstar Bobby Hull. Both signed in 1978 with the Rangers.
The Swedish left-winger became the first European born and trained player to skate in the NHL when he joined the New York Rangers in 1964-65. He played only four games.
The Czechoslovak centre was 30 when he became the first player to defect from a Soviet Bloc country to play for the WHA’s Toronto Toros. He jumped to the Detroit Red Wings in 1977 and played seven NHL seasons.
THE STASTNY BROTHERS
Peter and Anton defected from Czechoslovakia to the Quebec Nordiques in 1980 and the oldest brother Marian joined them a year later. Peter Stastny was the second-highest scorer of the 1980s behind Wayne Gretzky.
The star defenceman badgered Soviet authorities for years for permission to play in the NHL. They relented in 1989, when Fetisov and seven other older players including Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov were allowed to make the jump.
The Nordiques made the rangy centre the first European to be chosen first overall in the NHL draft in 1989. He played 19 seasons for Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver and entered the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Among records likely never to be broken - the Finnish winger’s 76 goals as a rookie in 1992-93 with Winnipeg.
The Russian Rocket debuted with the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 and went on to post to 60-goal seasons and three other 50-plus goal campaigns.
Still going at 45, the Czech winger won Stanley Cups in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. The five-time league scoring leader is second in all-time NHL points (1,914) and fourth in all-time games played (1,711).
In February, 2013, the Finn who got into only 55 NHL games as a player became the league’s first European general manager with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Vancouver Canucks Pavel Bure scoring the winning goal against Mike Vernon in the second overtime period against the Calgary Flames on April 30, 1994.