Monday, January 27, 2014
Ulf Sterner played in a mere four NHL games during his career, but in the process, became a hockey pioneer, as his debut for the New York Rangers in 1965 made him the first European to play in the NHL.
Sterner played for Sweden in the 1960 Olympics at age 18 and won a gold medal at the 1962 World Championships, followed by a silver medal in 1963, the same year he was named Sweden's Player of the Year. He then led all scorers at the 1964 Olympics in Austria with 11 points in seven games.
He came to the Rangers training camp in 1964 and began the year with the St. Paul Rangers of the Central Hockey League with 12 goals and 21 points in 16 games.
Once adjusted more to the North American style of play, Sterner was promoted to the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League. With bodychecking not allowed in the offensive zone in international hockey, the heavy hitting all over the ice was not something Sterner was accustomed to.
Still, he played well, earning himself a call-up by the Rangers, making his NHL debut on this date in 1965, becoming the first European-trained player to do so. After four games, it became clear that the physical play employed in the NHL was not something Sterner was comfortable with and was not going to sufficiently adapt to and he was returned to Baltimore, where his undeniable offensive skills allowed him to finish with 44 points in 52 games.
Back in Sweden the following season, Sterner would go on to play another 13 seasons, which included being named the Best Forward at the 1969 World Championships. In all, he would play in nine World Championships, earning a gold medal, five silvers an a bronze. He would also compete in two Olympics, earning silver in 1964 and was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1969, the IIHF amended it's rules to allow body checking everywhere, and having been trained under those rules, a better prepared Borje Salming became a regular member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973 and went on to have a 17 year NHL career. Once Salming showed a European was capable of competing in the NHL, more players began to arrive from primarily Sweden and Czechoslovakia at first, accelerated by the arrival of the WHA and the need for even more players.
Today's featured jersey is a 1964-65 New York Rangers Ulf Sterner jersey. The Rangers first adopted the font still in use for their main logo in 1941 and added the drop shadow the following season. The tie-neck collar arrived in 1951, bringing us to the style worn by Sterner in 1965. This style remained in use through 1976, but returned again in 1987, with the tie-neck collar reappearing in 1997.
Today's first video highlight is Ulf Sterner scoring Sweden's third goal as the Tre Kroner won the gold medal at the 1962 World Championships.
Next, we advance to 1970, as Sweden, with team captain Sterner wearing #14, defeats the Soviet Union for the first time in seven years 4-1 in a game where Vladisalv Tretiak coincidentally makes his NHL debut as an injury replacement. The video continues with the Soviets winning Game 2 by a score of 3-1 to win the World Championship.