You might be familiar with the classic tale of a Scandinavian gent of royal blood who has trouble with commitment, an oft-revived and popular drama. Hamlet . . . well, that's not a bad yarn, either.
No, this is not about Shakespeare's dithering Dane but a seesawing Swede, Peter Forsberg, who, after an absence of 1,018 days, returned to the NHL for two. After playing 35:10 for the Avalanche in weekend losses at Columbus and Nashville (and failing to register a point while finishing -4), the forward announced his retirement on Monday. For good. Cross his heart.
Forsberg was among the dominant players of his generation, especially when it counted most. His career postseason average of 1.13 points per game ranks sixth all time among players with more than 100 games. (He returned from a regular-season sabbatical in 2001--02 to score 27 points in 20 playoff matches, finishing first in postseason scoring even though Colorado was eliminated in the Western Conference finals.) But he will be remembered almost as much for his commitment issues as for his lupine ferocity. Even after his first game back—Avalanche coach Joe Sacco called him "arguably our best player"—Forsberg seemed raked by doubt. The following morning SI asked him, Are you absolutely sure you've done the right thing?
"I'm definitely not sure I'm doing the right thing," said Forsberg, who rated his performance the night before a two on a scale of five. "There's uncertainty. I'm not sure how it will work."
For staggering Colorado it simply didn't. Through Sunday the Avalanche had won six of 23 games since Dec. 21 and had lost nine of its last 10. (Although only nine points out of a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, Colorado must leapfrog six teams to qualify.) With significant injuries to left wings Tomas Fleischmann (out for the season with pulmonary emboli) and T.J. Galiardi (gone at least six weeks after forearm surgery), Forsberg, who signed for a prorated $1 million salary, was supposed to provide an admixture of offense, leadership and, in a perfect world, maybe sell a few tickets in a market that ranks 24th in attendance. G.M. Greg Sherman insisted last Thursday, "This is not about a marketing angle, it's about what makes our team better." Ultimately Sherman's was a fool's errand, rekindling a love affair with a once brilliant player who had as many misgivings as he had problems with a chronically wonky right foot.
Depending on how you count, this was either Forsberg's second (nine regular-season games with Colorado in '07--08) or third (two postlockout seasons with Philadelphia and briefly Nashville in '05--06 and '06--07) comeback and certainly the least satisfying. In the end it proved he could go home again. Just not for long.
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Photograph by JAMIE SABAU/ NHLI/GETTY IMAGES
ROUGH RETURN Forsberg (center) wasn't encouraged by his first game back, in which he played 17:38 and scored no points.