Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ulf Samuelsson Autographed Card

So Sweden barely got away with that one, eh?

Since it was a close call with no real standout from current NHLers, I decided to talk about a former Team Sweden representative... Ulf Samuelsson. Before Zdeno Chara, Samuelsson was the scariest big guy on defense, the guy who made opponents think twice upon entering the zone on his side, and even though he lacked Chara's monstrous slap shot, he made up for it in his defensive zone with a nasty edge and, many times, dirty play; he is responsible for ending at least 5 NHL careers with knee-on-knee shots (Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins being the most famous of them), as well as the occasional 'dirty hit from another body part', such as when he stopped Montréal Canadiens' Pierre Mondou's career short with a stick to the eye. He and Bryan Marchment were probably the two dirtiest players of their era.

Samuelsson was drafted in the third round of the 1982 NHL draft (67th overall) by the Hartford Whalers (the team that became the Carolina Hurricanes when they lost their soul, and who had been the New England Whalers in the WHA). He had some decent seasons at a Whaler, manning the defense with Adam Burt and Dave Babych in front of goalie Mike Liut, with Ron Francis and Kevin Dineen taking care of the bulk of the offense. A Canadiens-Whalers playoff series was a staple of the 1980s, and when the Habs wouldn't take care of eliminating the Whalers, the Québec Nordiques usually did.

Everything changed on March 4th, 1991: the Whalers sent Samuelsson, team captain Francis, and Grant Jennings to the Pittsburgh Penguins for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski; this gave the Penguins the best second line is the league (and one that could rival every other team's first), stabilized their defense, ensured they would win two straight Stanley Cups - thus ensuring the team's survival - and pretty much spelled the end for the Whalers. One trade having a huge impact on the future of two separate franchises.

He would eventually play for 3 more teams (and also belonging to the Atlanta Thrashers for a week without actually playing for them in the summer of 1999) to play over 1000 games in his NHL career, but he was never as effective with those other teams than he was with the Whalers and Penguins.

His international career was also somewhat tumultuous. He has represented Sweden 3 times in the World Juniors, once at the Europeans Junior Championships, twice at the World Championships (winning silver in 1990), the 1991 Canada Cup, and the first half of the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games.

The first half? That's right - his Swedish citizenship was revoked when it was found that Samuelsson had demanded (and obtained) U.S. citizenship, and he was promptly evicted from the Olympic team. In 2003, when Sweden changed its laws to allow for dual citizenship, he was again considered a Swede.

He also played for the NHL All Star Team who faced the Soviet Stars in Rendez-Vous '87, which took place in Québec City in lieu of an All Star Game that year.

After fittingly being an Assistant Coach for the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack in the 2005-06, he was named to the same position for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. In another ''back to the roots'' happentance, his son Phillip was drafted by the Penguins in 2009, 61st overall.

This card (#E17) was from the Euro-Stars sub-set of Upper Deck's 1991-92 Upper Deck Hockey set. It was signed at what was then known as the Molson Centre when his New York Rangers came to town. He graciously accepted my ''compliment'' as the league's most-feared defenseman and made a scary face at me, then signed very clearly in black sharpie.

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