Thomas Eriksson

Thomas Eriksson was the first European trained player to play for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Perhaps that should be no surprise, given that Eriksson was an aggressive defenseman with imposing size back in Sweden. He set the Djurgarden team record for most penalty minutes in a career, leading the Swedish Elite League once during the regular season and three times during the playoffs.

Mind you, that was back in Stockholm. In Philadelphia he was not nearly so physical, and certainly not by the Flyers' bruising standards, as his 107 career penalty minutes in 208 games suggest.

In fact, scouting reports back in the mid-1980s suggested Eriksson was easily over-matched along the boards because of a lack of upper body strength. He did not spend much time hitting, although he was credited with increasing his physical tempo in his final season before he got hurt. He definitely had a reputation as being soft, as teams targeted him knowing he would hurry his puck movement or abandon the puck altogether.

Skill wise he was a steady skater, though not fast and at times awkward when moving backwards. That likely had a lot to do with his play reading ability as he seemed confused at times about his role in the defensive zone. To make matters worse, speeding power forwards targeted his side of the ice as he had a reputation for turning too late.

He did carry and pass the puck well, and had good offensive anticipation. His shot was unnoteworthy and generally from the blue line, although he would try to sneak into the middle of the slot from time to time on a set play.

The Flyers drafted Eriksson in the fifth round, 98th overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.  They rushed Eriksson over too early, bring both him and Pelle Lindbergh overseas, and even moving popular veteran Moose Dupont to Quebec because they thought Eriksson would be ready. He spent most of the 1980-81 season in the minor leagues, and then after a single game with the Flyers in 1981-82 he was granted the right to return home to Sweden. He was home sick and clearly not mentally ready for life in the NHL and life in North America in general.

After a couple of strong seasons back with Djurgarden, Eriksson would return to Philadelphia for the 1983-84 season, feeling "older, wiser" and better prepared for life away from home.

Eriksson would spend the next three seasons playing as a depth defenseman with the Flyers until a knee injury cost him the remainder of the 1986 season. That would prove to be his final game in the National Hockey League.

Interestingly, Eriksson returned home to Sweden and that is when he really solidified his reputation as a dominant and physical defenseman in the SEL. He returned Djurgarden to the championship title three years in a row in 1989, 1990 and 1991, just like he did previously back in 1983. Not surprisingly, Djurgarden retired his #27 when his playing career was over.

He also helped the Swedish national team to the 1990 World Championship silver medal, his best finish in four attempts at that tournament. In each of those four tournaments he was named to the First All Star team.
Eriksson also twice represented Team Sweden at the Canada Cup (1981 and 1984) and at the Olympics (1980 and 1988). He helped Sweden with the bronze at both Olympic games.


Unknown 7:53 PM  

Interesting to read. And very surprising. I have followed his entire career in Djurgården and can say that he is one of the club's greatest captains of all time with an enormous will. Note: Djurgården is Sweden's greatest hockey club with sixteen championship titles. (During Erikssons years at the club they went to six championship finals.) My conclusion is that he must have been unhappy in Philadelphia's organization as a whole.

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