The Diachronic Barber Pole Observations of a Recovering Hockey Exile

Montreal Mystique Interviews Ulf Nilsson

January 1, 2010, by Homme De Sept-Iles

Hull.  Hedberg.  Nilsson.  It’s one of the great lines in hockey history.  Formed in 1974, the trio featured the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, along with Sweden’s Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, playing for the Winnipeg Jets in the upstart World Hockey Association, rival professional league to the NHL.

The World Hockey Association (WHA) existed from 1972 to 1979 and provided hockey fans with an alternative to the National Hockey League (NHL).  Players and coaches benefited as the  WHA ultimately forced the NHL to pay fairer salaries and create better working conditions for players.

The WHA was the first league to showcase Swedish and European-born players on hockey’s North American professional stage.  Nilsson averaged 121 points in his four seasons centering Hull and Hedberg.  When Nilsson left the Jets in 1978, it was one of the weakening blows for what had become a dying league.  The WHA folded soon afterward and four teams were absorbed into the NHL; the Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and league champion Winnipeg Jets.  But not without rancour.  The NHL decreed that each of the teams could protect only two players and pilfered the rest.

When Nilsson collected 66 points in 59 games in his first season with the Rangers those numbers were part of a league-wide diorama that showed that “those Europeans” could play with the “big boys”.

Montreal Mystique spoke at length last week with Nilsson from his home in Stockholm, Sweden.  In this enjoyable first of a two-part interview, Nilsson details his current efforts to get his local AIK team certified for the KHL, how a bomb shelter became key to his business endeavours and, of course, his experiences with the Jets, Rangers and one memorable Stanley Cup final against the dynastic Montreal Canadiens in the spring of 1979.

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Montreal Mystique Podcast  

Click play (black arrow button) on the player above to play within the webpage or click the link below to download via iTunes below.  Ulf Nilsson 48 mins.

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Ulf Nilsson Facts

Avco Cup (WHA Championship) 1976 and 1978 – Winnipeg Jets

Stanley Cup Finalist 1978-79 – New York Rangers

Regular Season – Games Played: 300; Goals: 140; Assists: 344
Playoffs – Games Played: 42; Goals: 14; Assists: 53; Points: 67

NHL totals
Regular Season – Games Played: 170; Goals: 57; Assists: 112; Points: 169
Playoffs – Games Played: 25; Goals: 8; Assists: 14; Points: 22

Awards and Distinctions

WHA First All-Star Team 1976 and 1978
WHA Playoff MVP 1976
WHA Second All-Star Team 1977

World Championship silver medalist 1973 – Sweden
World Championship bronze medalist 1974 – Sweden

Canada Cup 1976 and 1981 – Sweden
Challenge Cup 1979 (versus USSR) – NHL All-Star
Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame – Honoured Member

Ulf Nilsson – Detailed Statistics
Ulf Nilsson – Detailed Wikipedia Biography

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Montreal Mystique Podcast  

Up Next: Canadiens’ legend, Jean Béliveau

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