Swedish Players in the Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) was established in 1943, with the first players inducted in 1945. There is a misconception about the HHOF because most players enshrined have had illustrious careers in the NHL. The HHOF is for international players, too; however, only a few players outside of North America get recognized for their contributions to the game on the world stage. 

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The first player inducted into the HHOF who did not have Canadian or American passports was Vladislav Tretiak from the Soviet Union/Russia. Often considered the most outstanding goalie ever to play the game, he remained the only non-North American player in the HHOF until 1996, when Sweden great Börje Salming earned induction. 

Eventually, the gates opened to superstars born and trained in Europe who either jumped the pond to play in the NHL or earned recognition for their achievements in international competitions. However, Salming remained the only player from his Nordic homeland with a plaque in Toronto. He finally got company with a few new players earning their ticket to immortality in 2012, 2014, and 2015. 

Related: All-Time Best Player From Every NHL Team

There are currently 293 players in the HHOF, with just 16 from Europe and four from Sweden. Furthermore, when the selection committee announced the 2022 induction class, three new Swedish players — Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Sedin, and Daniel Sedin — joined their brethren and be immortalized together.  

As more players from Sweden gain enshrinement, they must never forget the path other players paved to Toronto. Let’s look back at the country’s other members of the HHOF. 

1996 HHOF Class – Börje Salming (Kiruna, Sweden)

Salming was one of the first European-born and trained players to come to North America and succeed in the NHL. 

He started his professional hockey career in Sweden’s Division 2 in 1967 as a member of Kiruna AIF. After three seasons, Salming advanced to the top division in 1970 and won the league championship in 1971 and 1972 with Brynäs. On May 12, 1973, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being discovered by scout Gerry McNamara. 

On Oct. 10, 1973, Salming made his NHL debut, earning an assist in a 7-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Moreover, after 39 points in 75 games, he finished third in the Calder Trophy voting (Rookie of the Year) and fifth in the Norris Trophy (Best Defenceman) voting. 

Over the next six seasons, Salming set career highs in points (78 in 1977) and games played (80 in 1978), earning an All-Star selection yearly. He never won the Norris Trophy, but during this stretch of his career, he never finished lower than fourth in the voting, finishing as runner-up in 1977 and 1980.

Related: Remembering Borje Salming: “King” of Maple Leafs’ Defensemen

Salming played 1,099 games with the Maple Leafs (third all-time), scoring 148 goals and adding 620 assists (a franchise record) for 768 points (fourth). He never shied away from contact and racked up 1,292 penalty minutes (fifth) with the club. When his time in Toronto ended, he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, suiting up for 49 games in 1989-90. 

Upon retirement, Salming received several accolades, including enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame (1996) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame in 1998. The Hockey News listed him as No. 74 in the top 100 Greatest NHL Players, and the Maple Leafs retired his No. 21 jersey in 2006. In 2008, the IIHF named him a member of the Centennial All-Star team. 

NHL Milestone Tracker

Salming made headlines in July 2022 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Months later, he made his first public appearance informing the world that he could no longer speak and had to receive his meals through a feeding tube. Hockey players around the globe have come to his aid and are offering to help this legendary player continue his battle in any way they can. 

2012 HHOF Class – Mats Sundin (Bromma, Sweden)

Mats Sundin became the first European-born player to be selected first overall in an NHL Entry Draft when the Quebec Nordiques called his name on Jun. 17, 1989. As of 2022, he remains one of only two Swedish players (Rasmus Dahlin, 2018) drafted from the top spot. 

In 1989, as a member of Djurgårdens IF in Sweden, Sundin won a league championship before moving to North America to make his NHL debut in 1990. He made his debut on Oct. 4, scoring a goal in his first game. Two seasons later, in 1992-93, he set a career-high with 114 points before Quebec dealt him to the Maple Leafs at the 1994 Draft.  

Related: The Maple Leafs Quiet Captain – Hall of Famer Mats Sundin

Sundin was already a star on the rise when he landed in Toronto. During his 13 years with the Maple Leafs, 10 as team captain, he blossomed into a Hall of Famer. Although he only won one award during his time with the club, he did become the franchise’s leader in goals (420) and points (987). 

Considered one of the best players in the illustrious history of the Maple Leafs, Sundin never led his club to a Stanley Cup Final appearance, making him one of the game’s best never to lift the Silver Chalice. 

Upon retirement in 2009, Sundin remained the only Swedish player to score 500 goals (564) and collect over 1,300 points (1,349). He ranks second in games played (1,346), third in assists (785), and sixth in penalty minutes (1,093) amongst Sweden-born players. 

Internationally, Sundin was captain of the Sweden team who won Olympic Gold at the 2006 Turin Games. Additionally, he earned a gold medal at the World Championships in 1991, 1992, and 1998, along with silver medals in 1990 and 2003. 

In his first year of eligibility, 2012, the HHOF welcomed Sundin into the hall before the IIHF called to include him in their HOF in 2013. The Maple Leafs retired his jersey No. 13 in 2011, and the NHL named him one of the 100 Greatest Players in league history. 

2014 HHOF Class – Peter Forberg (Örnsköldsvik, Sweden)

Peter Forsberg began his professional hockey career with Modo Hockey in Sweden, first at the junior level and then as a senior player. The Philadelphia Flyers drafted him as the sixth-overall pick at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, the highest European player selected that year. Before the superstar even made his NHL debut, the Flyers traded him to the Nordiques in a package for Eric Lindros, who refused to sign with Quebec. 

While in Sweden, Forsberg’s reputation grew after winning a gold medal at the 1992 World Championships and back-to-back silver medals at the 1992 and 1993 World Junior Championships. Furthermore, at the 1993 tournament, Forsberg set an IIHF junior record with 31 points in seven games, a mark untouched over 30 years later. However, his crowning achievement internationally occurred a season later, when he scored the decisive goal in the shootout to help Sweden to their first gold medal at the Winter Olympics. 

Related: Peter Forsberg: A Look Back at a Storied NHL Career

After all that success, Forsberg finally came to North America to play with the Nordiques and won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season (1995) before winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, who moved from Quebec in 1996. Five seasons later, he would lift the Cup again (2001) despite not finishing the playoffs after having his spleen removed. 

In 2003, he became the first Swedish-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer) and Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player). Three years later, Forsberg would be a member of the Sweden team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 2006 winter games, adding to his international medal count (nine). By this time, he was already a member of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, and World Championship). Still, he enhanced his legacy by becoming just the third hockey player to earn the honors twice.

Injuries plagued Forsberg’s career, which cut into his playing time and final career statistics. Regarding his ranks amongst Sweden players all-time, he sits eighth with 885 points in just 708 games and 12th overall in penalty minutes with 690. His final career plus/minus rating is plus-238, second to Niklas Lidstrom’s plus-450. In NHL rankings, Forsberg’s 1.25 points-per-game average ranks 12th all-time. 

Forsberg retired from the NHL in 2011, and the Avalanche raised his jersey No. 21 to the rafters later that year. In 2013, he was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame before earning his place in the HHOF (2014) in his first year of eligibility. Later in 2017, Forsberg was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players. 

2015 HHOF Class – Nicklas Lidström (Vasteras, Sweden) 

The Red Wings found their franchise defenceman, Nicklas Lidström, with the 53rd pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. After playing in the Sweden Elitersien and winning a World Championship in 1991, he made his NHL debut on Oct. 3, 1991. For the next 20 seasons, he would man the blue line for Detroit, advancing to the playoffs every season of his career, an NHL record for a player with one team. 

Lidström won four Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008, becoming the first European-born and trained captain to hoist the Cup in 2008. Between 2001 and 2011, he would win the Norris Trophy seven times, with three-peats from 2001-2003 and 2006-2008, with his last one in 2011. He ranks second all-time in wins behind Bobby Orr, who won the award eight times from 1967-1975. 

During his career, Lidström also earned NHL All-Rookie honors in 1992, played in 12 All-Star games, and was named to 10 first All-Star team selections. In 2002, he became the first European to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. As a defenceman, Lidström ranks fourth all-time in Red Wings history with 1,142 points, just one of four players with over 1,000 points. He is second behind Gordie Howe in games played (1,687), third in assists (878), and 11th in goals (264). 

Related: A Hall of Fame Tribute to Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom

Internationally, Lidström earned four medals, earning his place in the Triple Gold Club, thanks to a 1991 World Championship and 2006 Olympic Gold Medal. He is credited with the winning goal in 2006 and earned an Olympic All-Star team selection. 

Lidström holds at least 13 records with the Red Wings and 18 NHL records. In 2014, the Red Wings retired his jersey No. 5, and the IIHF welcomed him into their Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame before the HHOF honored him with a plaque in 2015. Several years later, the IIHF named Lidström to the All-Time Sweden Team in 2020. 

The 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and Beyond

As mentioned earlier, Alfredsson and Henrik and Daniel Sedin will join their fellow countrymen at the HHOF in Toronto. Most of the names on this list played with or against one another for years. 

Right now, the top-five highest-scoring Swedish-born players are all in the HHOF. Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals) is the only active player from his home country with a thousand points (1,011). When he retires, the debates will continue on whether he earns a plaque, too. The next player with a solid chance to get a call someday is Henrik Zetterberg, who is seventh all-time in points with a lot of hardware in his trophy case. Should these two make it in, the country’s top-eight players, based on points, would all be together in Toronto. 

Related: Hockey Hall of Fame: Who Becomes Eligible in 2023?

There are a handful of players still working on their HOF resumes, which include Erik Karlsson (San Jose), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), and Mika Zibanejad (New York), to name a few. However, the next Swedish player guaranteed entry into the HHOF is “The King” Henrik Lundqvist. He retired in 2020 and has yet to reach the end of the three-year eligibility period. Rest assured, though, in 2023, Lundqvist, considered one of the game’s greatest goalies, will earn his plaque during his first year of eligibility, becoming the first Swedish goalie to enter the HHOF.