Thursday, January 8, 2015
Bengt-Åke Gustafsson began his hockey career in the second division of Swedish hockey with IF Karlskoga/Bofors, playing in 8 games of the 1973-74 season. After three more seasons with Karlskoga, including scoring 32 goals and 50 points in 1976-77, the center moved to Färjestads BK of the top level of Swedish hockey, the Elitserien.
During his first season with Färjestads, Gustafsson scored 25 points in 32 games, which was enough to garner the attention of the Washington Capitals, who drafted him in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft. He would play the 1978-79 season with Färjestads, including three playoff games before he signed, after that year's World Championships, with the WHA's Edmonton Oilers in time to play two games of the Avco Cup Finals, scoring a goal and two assists in what would prove to be the last games in the history of the league.
With four WHA clubs, including Edmonton, joining the NHL for the 1979-80 season, a somewhat complicated Expansion Draft took place. The Oilers made goaltenders Dave Dryden and Eddie Mio plus Wayne Gretzky and Gustafsson as their choices of which players to protect, as the NHL clubs were now free to reclaim players whose rights they still held. The Capitals challenged the Oilers right to protect Gustafsson, and it would take three months for then NHL President John Zigler to side with the Capitals on the basis that Edmonton had originally broken WHA rules to sign Gustafsson in the first place.
With that ruling, Gustafsson became a Washington Capital and made his NHL debut on October 11, 1979 against the Buffalo Sabres, registering his first point with an assist. He would go on to have a 22 goal season and score 60 points, setting a Capitals rookie record, which was third on the club behind team leader Mike Gartner, who had also been reclaimed by the Capitals after playing the previous season in the WHA.
Showing amazing consistency, Gustafsson would reel off five seasons with the Capitals with 60, 55, 60, 64 and 75 points while playing a minimum of 67 games, which included a career high 32 goals in 1983-84, aided in part by his five goal performance on this date in 1984.
The game was played in Philadelphia against the Flyers at The Spectrum and saw the Flyers get the first goal of the game at 5:20. Gustafsson tied the game at 6:19 on the power play with assists from Finn Timo Blomqvist and Gartner. Gartner again set up Gustafsson at 11:15 of the first period with the first assist going to Dave Christian, who scored the third Capitals goal of the period at 13:56 while with a man advantage.
Gustafsson completed the second hat trick of his career with his 20th goal of the season at 11:41 of the second period when he beat Flyers goaltender Pelle Lindbergh, again on the power play from Alan Haworth and defenseman Larry Murphy. It was Gustafsson's third shot of the game - all of which had found the back of the net.
Doug Jarvis extended the Capitals lead with a shorthanded goal at 3:42 of the third, followed by Gustafsson's fourth of the game on his fourth shot a minute and a half later from Gartner and captain Rod Langway. Again on the power play, Gustafsson completed the 7-1 rout as well as his magical evening with his fifth goal of the game on just his fifth shot at 10:11. Bobby Carpenter and Langway got the assists on Gustafsson's third power play goal of the game to go with his two at even strength to become the first Capitals player to ever score five goals in a single game.
Limited to 51 games in 1984-85 due to a pulled hamstring, he rebounded in 1985-86 to equal his career high of 75 points scored in 1983-84. A broken leg at the end of the 1985-86 season saw him return to the lower levels of Swedish hockey to regain his form during the 1986-87 season. Back with the Capitals for 1987-88 after an impressive showing at the World Championships, he played in 78 games, scoring 54 points. After one final season in North America, Gustafsson scored 69 points.
He returned to Sweden to continue his career, rejoining Färjestads for four seasons and then extending his career with VEU Feldkirch in the Austrian Hockey League, where he averaged 1.34 points per game over five seasons until retiring as a player in 1998 at the age of 39.
During his lengthy career, Gustafsson totaled 196 goals and 555 points while in the NHL, as well as another 183 goals and 500 points in other leagues for a career total of 1,055 points.
Internationally, Gustafsson competed in the World Junior Championships in 1978, coming away with a silver medal.
Gustafsson in 1978
He then played for Sweden at the World Championships in 1979 (earning a bronze medal), 1981 (silver), 1983, 1987 (gold, Sweden's first in 25 years) and 1991 (gold).
Gustafsson at the 1987 World Championships
He also played in the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cup tournaments as well as the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. His international playing career was recognized with his induction into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2003.
He then went onto a lengthy coaching career, including stops with club teams in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Russia. Additionally, Gustafsson was also the head coach of the Sweden National Team, which included his remarkable success in 2006 when Sweden first won gold at the Olympics in Turin, Italy followed by winning gold at the World Championships three months later, which made him the first coach to win both the Olympics and World Championships in the same year.
Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 Washington Capitals Bengt-Åke Gustafsson jersey as worn during Gustafsson's spectacular five goal performance on this date in 1984. The Capitals adopted this style jersey for their first season of 1974-75. For the 1983-84 season, the Capitals had just four stars on the sleeves for the first time, rather than the customary five, which they went back to after two seasons.
This style jersey would remain in use through the 1995 season.
Today's video section begins with highlights of Gustafsson coaching Sweden to the 2006 Olympic gold medal. Utterly depressing and bizarre choice of music for such a happy occasion, but the images still tell the story.
Next up, a news report following the 2006 World Championships gold medal for Gustafsson and Sweden.