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Puckarinen Hits A Post

Nothing in the tank

On December 26, the Swedish Television (SVT) will broadcast their brand new, hour-long Peter Forsberg documentary. Last Saturday, they let it slip to the general public that Peter Forsberg admitted Team’s Sweden’s tanking a game to get a better opponent in the quarterfinals.

Not that it was a big surprise. All the signs were there. The Swedes rested their starting goaltender - who didn’t even dress for the game - , they were outshot by almost 20 shots, and the intensity just wasn’t there. But, who could blame them, they had already secured their spot in the playoff stage of the tournament, and a loss gave them an easier opponent, while also pitting its strongest competitors against each other.

But what I don’t understand is how Peter Forsberg could know that Tre Kronor tanked the game, when he didn’t even play in the tournament?

Oh, oh, he wasn’t talking about the 2011 World Championship in which Sweden conveniently lost to Canada 3-2?

He didn’t mean the game in which coach Per Mårts rested Viktor Fasth, later voted Best Goaltender. Instead, Mårts started Erik Ersberg who had played in the first game of the tournament, against Norway, and had posted a .750 save percentage, making 15 saves in the game that Sweden lost 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

In the game against Canada, Sweden also took a slashing minor with 1:45 remaining in the game, trailing 3-2, and never pulled the goalie. That meant that the Canadians played Russia in their quarterfinal, while Sweden, finishing second in the group, played against Germany.

But Forsberg was talking about the last game of the group stage in the 2006 Olympics when Sweden lost 3-0 to Slovakia, and was rewarded for that with a quarterfinal game against Switzerland – instead of Canada who played its quarterfinal game against Russia.

“There was absolutely no reason for us to win the game. That was our last chance to win Olympic gold, so why would we risk getting injured. And we’d get a lesser opponent in the quarterfinal,” says Forsberg.

Both times, Sweden went all the way to the final, beating Finland 3-2 in the 2006 Olympic one, and then losing the 2011 World Championship final to Finland 6-1.

But just as Forsberg was careful to add that there had never been any orders from the coach, and that it had just been something the players knew, maybe talked about, although many players don’t seem to recall any such conversations, either.

Is it smart planning or is it cheating? Is it planning when you play Canada in the last game, but something else when you play against Slovakia, a team Sweden’s expected to win?

According to the Swedish media, it’s all a part of the game within the Game. Anything else had been, like Forsberg said, stupid. But how smart is it then to admit to it five years later and put all your teammates in the hot spot once again?

Mats Sundin didn’t want to say they tanked the game, but said that since both Sweden and Slovakia were already through to the playoff stage, “there wasn’t the same intensity as usually.”

“I was there to win every game, but I don’t know what the others thought,” says Kenny Jönsson.

“All I know is that I gave 100 percent,” says Mikael Tellqvist, the goalie thrown to the wolves, and the one player who’s really put in an unfair position. Would the mere fact that he played mean that the team not only didn’t want to win, but actually wanted to lose?

I’ve been waiting for this moment for ten years, after half a dozen Finnish cross-country skiers got caught for doping, and the Swedish television announced categorically that “there seems to be a weird subculture of cheating and lying in Finland”.

So, here it comes, Jocke, my Swedish (and fantastic) brother-in-law: Right back atcha.

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Sollentuna, Sweden. He doesn’t think a Sollentuna boy like Mats Sundin would ever throw a game. You should follow Risto on Twitter, @puckarinen.

Filed in: | Puckarinen Hits A Post | Permalink
  Tags: bengt-Åke+gustafsson, erik+ersberg, mats+sundin, olympics, peter+forsberg, team+sweden, viktor+fasth


SYF's avatar

The TSN video.  It’s a compelling read.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 12/19/11 at 10:55 PM ET

SYF's avatar

The practice isn’t unusual per se but to do it on an international stage with so much on the line for the gold medal, it just makes the issue that much more amplified.

What does Forsberg gain from all this?  That’s what I want to know.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 12/20/11 at 08:23 PM ET

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About Puckarinen Hits A Post

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

That's right, he's deep behind the enemy lines. He's also a regular contributor to IIHF.com, NHL.com, The Hockey News, and several publications in Finland and Sweden. He's also covered four World Championships and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the IIHF.

And since he foolishly hoisted the Stanley Cup in his twenties, he wakes up every morning knowing he will never be able to win it.