Thursday, June 9, 2011
Swedish left winger Dan Labraaten, born on this date in 1951, played in the Swedish second division for three seasons from 1966-67 to 1968-69.
He moved up to to the top level of Swedish hockey when he joined Leksands IF. During that time period he also skated for Sweden in the European Junior Championships in both 1968 (winning bronze), 1969 (silver) and 1970.
Labraaten continued to skate for the dominant Leksands IF over the course of the next six seasons, with his standout being the 1974-75 season in which he scored 24 goals and 38 points in 30 games while playing with future Minnesota North Stars Per-Olav Brasar and Roland Eriksson.
During Labraaten's time with the Leksands IF from 1970 to 1976, the team were playoff runners up in 1971 and 1972 and winners of the Le Mat Trophy as playoff champions in 1973, 1974 and 1975. Labraaten played for the Sweden National Team at the 1974 World Championships where he came away with a bronze medal.
He also added to his international resume with two more appearances in the World Championships, first in 1975 when he scored nine goals in ten games, and again in 1976 with eight points in ten games, coming home again with bronze medals both times. In September of 1976, Labraaten was a member of the Sweden National Team in the inaugural Canada Cup.
Following the success of Swedish imports Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, Labraaten joined the Swedish superstars as a member of the high flying Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association for the 1976-77 season. While his 51 points were far and away his career high to date, thanks to a much longer season than in Sweden, it paled in comparison to to the 131 by Hedberg. The playoffs were another matter, as Labraaten was third in team scoring with 24 points in 20 games, just five back of Hedberg and three behind Nilsson but two ahead of the great Bobby Hull.
His second season in Winnipeg proved to be less personally successful, as he was limited to just 47 games, which naturally lowered his final offensive numbers to 34 points, but the Jets would capture the Avco Cup as league champions at the end of the season.
He was not retained by the Jets and signed with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL for the 1979-80 season. The going was a bit tougher in the NHL, as Detroit was going through the "Dead Wings" era, during which they missed the playoffs 15 of 17 seasons. Despite playing in 31 more games with Detroit, he only scored four more points than he did in with Winnipeg, a reflection of playing with a losing team in a less wide open league. With Detroit missing the playoffs yet again, Labraaten was available for World Championship duty for Sweden in 1979, which resulted in his fourth bronze medal in as many tries.
Labraaten then had the best season of his career, setting career highs with 30 goals and 57 points in 1979-80. A poor first half in 1980-81 saw the Red Wings trade him to the Calgary Flames where he was strictly a role player over the next season and a half during which he played in just 70 games and scoring 38 points to close out the NHL portion of his career.
Labraaten returned to Sweden for the 1982-83 season and rejoined Leksands IF, with whom he would play the final six seasons of his professional career. Proving he had not lost his offensive touch, Labraaten had the finest season in Sweden during 1983-84 during which he score 23 goals and 44 points in 36 games to win the Elitserien scoring championship. He had one final 20 goal season in 1985-86.
He also made two more World Championship appearances, the first in 1985 and a final one in 1986 which earned Labraaten a long awaited silver medal to go with his four bronzes.
His combined totals across three leagues and his many international appearances are 786 games, 340 goals and 627 points as well as a fist full of World Championship medals.
Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 Winnipeg Jets Dan Labraaten jersey as worn during his first season of hockey in North America.
The Jets adopted this style for their second WHA season of 1973-74 and used it throughout the remainder of their six seasons in the WHA. Upon entry into the NHL in 1979-80, they celebrated with a new set of sweaters, retiring their WHA era jerseys which had seen them through three championship seasons.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1979 Sweden National Team Dan Labraaten jersey. This jersey is from a unique period of Swedish hockey in the late 1970's and early 80's when Sweden did not wear their famous three crowns logo which is most closely associated with Swedish hockey, but opted instead for a polar bear crest below the words "tre kronor", Swedish for "three crowns".