Sweden's Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund (photo, right, from his last season in the NHL as a member of the Rangers in 2008-09) have decided to unretire and play for the same MoDo team in the Swedish Elite league for whom they starred some 17 years ago.
The reason for their joint return?
MoDo, once a powerhouse in Sweden, has been struggling on and off the ice. Forsberg and Naslund are hoping that their presence can lift the team out of the cellar in the standings, and, just as importantly, help improve the team's bottom line.
"The hockey team means everything to this city," Naslund recently explained. "When the team is not doing well, you can tell a lot of people are down here, too."
And the total monetary compensation the two former NHL all stars will receive?
Nothing. Zero. Nada.
That's right. Forsberg and Naslund are coming back to provide a lift to a MoDo franchise that helped launch both of their careers. And they are asking for nothing in return.
That right there is why this is my favorite hockey story this fall.
I have always had tremendous respect for Forsberg. His skill level. His battle level. His willingness to fight through, and, later in his career, fight back from debilitating injuries. He has always been a player to admire.
Naslund was someone I respected and watched from afar for most of his career. He had always struck me as a classy guy, both on and off the ice, and was a fine ambassador of the Vancouver Canucks for many years.
Last year Naslund embarked on his final season in the National Hockey League as a member of the Rangers, and I had the privilege to work with him while serving as the beat writer for the team's web site. Though he was somewhat guarded regarding himself on a personal level, Naslund was a pleasure to get to know professionally. He was honest and straightforward, both during good times and bad, and made himself available to me and other members of the media every day. When I needed the most honest assessment of whatever was going on with the Rangers last season, I always turned to Naslund for the answers, and he delivered the goods.
I know he didn't produce the numbers that both he, the organization, and the fans had hoped for when he signed as a free agent two summers ago, but no one can ever say that Naslund did not represent the Rangers with the utmost class during his one year on Broadway.
Now Naslund shows his true colors again. One more classy move, this time in his native country, as he and Forsberg refuse to forget those who helped them on their road to stardom.
Best story of the year, so far.