Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Patrik Sundtröm, born on this date in 1961, coincidentally the same date as his twin brother Peter Sundström, began his hockey career in typical European fashion, playing two hours down the road from his hometown of Skellefteå for IF Björklöven in Umeå beginning in 1978-79 with a single game before 26 games the following season. He also made his first appearance for Sweden at the World Junior Championships in 1980. Following the season, Sundström was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft in the ninth round.
Sundström had a very, very busy 1980-81 as he played in the Swedish Elitserien regular season for Björklöven, scoring 28 points in 36 games. He was also still eligible for the World Juniors, where he scored 7 goals in 5 games to earn the award as Top Forward of the tournament as he and his brother Peter helped Sweden win the championship, to date their only gold medal in World Junior history.
Sweden teammates Patrik and Peter Sundström in 1981
Patrik's performance was so impressive that later that spring he also competed for Sweden again, only this time at the World Championships, scoring 4 times in 7 games, earning a silver medal as runner-up to the powerful Soviet Union.
After a three month break, Sundström had the honor of playing for Sweden once again, this time at the 1981 Canada Cup just prior to the start of the 1981-82 Elitserien season, still with Björklöven. For the second consecutive season, Sundström was the second leading scorer on the club as he registered his first 20 goal season with 22 goals and 35 points and was named Swedish Player of the Year. He then made his second World Championship appearance with 7 points in 10 games.
He then made the jump to the NHL, joining the Canucks for the 1982-83 season, where he acquitted himself well, scoring 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points as rookie. The following season he led the Canucks in scoring with an impressive 38 goals and 53 assists for 91 total points to establish career highs in all three offensive categories.
Toni Tanti celebrates a goal with Patrik Sundström
That same season Peter joined him in the NHL, suiting up for the New York Rangers, where he had a nearly identical season to Patrik's rookie campaign, as he scored 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points.
Patrik was reunited with Peter on the Swedish National Team during the 1984 Canada Cup before Patrik again led the Canucks offensively in 1984-85 with 25 goals and 68 points. He would play two more seasons with Vancouver, scoring 66 and 71 points respectively, before being traded to the New Jersey Devils just prior to the 1987-88 season.
His first season with the Devils concluded with his only deep playoff run in the NHL when the Devils reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1988 which included his NHL record eight point night, coming from 3 goals and 5 assists in a 10-4 win over Washington, a playoff record which still stands today. His best season with New Jersey came with a high of 76 points in 1989-90.
That same season, Patrik was reunited once more with his brother Peter, who, after three seasons with the Rangers, spent a year back in Sweden winning a championship in 1987 with Björklöven and followed that by helping Sweden win the World Championship (the first not won by the communist Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia in 25 years) before returning to the NHL for a season and a half with the Washington Capitals before being traded to the Devils, where he played 21 games as a teammate to Patrik to finish his NHL career.
Peter would then return to Sweden, where he would join Malmo IF for the final five seasons of his career, winning Swedish championships in 1992 and 1994.
Meanwhile, Patrik would play two more seasons for New Jersey prior to returning to Björklöven to finish out his career.
Patrik's final NHL totals are 679 games played, 219 goals and 369 assists for 588 points, while Peter played in 338 NHL contests, scoring 61 goals and 83 assists for 144 points. Patrik would later have his jersey #17 retired by Björklöven.
Today's featured jersey is a 1984-85 Vancouver Canucks Patrik Sundström jersey. Before the 1978-79 season the Canucks hired a professional psychologist to redesign their uniforms. The old colors were said to be "too bland, too tranquil and did not inspire emotion." The result was the "V" design, suggesting "victory" according to the designer, one of the strangest, yet most unforgettable jerseys to ever see the ice in an NHL contest.
The bright orange was said to "evoke passion and aggression" while the black road jersey was supposed to instill fear in the opposition.
The Canucks introduced the jerseys, which none of the players had seen prior to the game, at the season opener in Minnesota. As Stan Smyl said, "I've never been ashamed to wear the Canuck's uniform, but that night none of us wanted to leave the dressing room."
They were met with much derision around the NHL and were often referred to as "those Halloween suits". Time has settled on the nickname of "The Flying V" for these jerseys.
The basic jersey produced in 1978 remained in use until the 1984-85 season, but with a few adjustments along the way, such as a change in color for the names on the back, relocating the very unconventional sleeve numbers from the wrists to the shoulders and eventually evolving from one color names and numbers to two colors for both.
Despite others often ranking this as one of the top three, if not the worst, jersey of all time, we are actually fans of the whole concept of trying to design a jersey in an effort to aid your team in victory. It took some bold thinking and a lot of guts for the designer to create this jeresy and then even more for the club to support the concept and stick with it for seven seasons.
The "Flying V" jerseys are a curiosity, as no other team followed them down the same path, leaving the "Flying V" as a truly unique chapter in NHL history.
Today's video section begins with Sundström's goals from his record setting 8 point playoff game in 1988.
Next, the jersey retirement ceremony of Patrik's #17 by IF Björklöven.