One of the pleasant surprises so far in this NHL season is the emergence of Edmonton Oilers rookie Patrick Thoresen. Quickly becoming a coach's and fans' favorite, Thoresen has popped in a couple of goals, including the game winner in a 2-1 win over Vancouver Tuesday night. His spirited play is often rewarded by coach Craig MacTavish. The versatile Thoresen has been bumped up to the top lines during games, sending proven NHLers such as Raffi Torres to the 4th line for a spell.
Despite it's Nordic location and love of winter athletics, Norway has never been a hockey power, due to a lack of rinks largely. The only NHLer of note from Norway is former Columbus Blue Jackets center Espen "Shampoo" Knutson. Bjorne Skaare, Anders Myrvold, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen also skated briefly in the league.
But any conversation on Norwegian hockey's best player is incomplete without mentioning Patrick's father Petter, legendary in those small Norwegian hockey circles.
Astute fans may recognize Petter Thoresen as the head coach of the underdog Norwegian entry at the 2006 world junior championships in Vancouver. His coaching landed Norways return to the "A" group of hockey nations for the first time since 1991.
In a nation in love with every form of skiing, Petter has dedicated his entire life to hockey. He began his professional career in 1978 with Valerengen Oslo, with whom he would later captain to four Norwegian championship titles. He would later play with Storhamar Hamar as well, and now coaches them.
He would debut with the national team in 1980 at the Lake Placid Olympics. There was no Norwegian Miracle On Ice however, as the team finished tied for 9th, although they did finish ahead of West Germany and Japan.
For Petter, playing in the Olympics was a dream come true. It was a dream he would get to experience again and again. And again and again. Petter Thoresen is one of only five hockey players to participate in five Olympics. Germany's Udo Kiessling and Dieter Hegen, France's Denis Perez and Finland's Raimo Helminen, who played in six tournaments, are the only other players able to make that incredible claim.
Not surprisingly, success was hard to come by for the Norwegians. In those five Olympics, the nation finished 9th, 10th, 12th, 9th and 11th, out of 12 teams. The team never won a single game.
Thoresen's career highlight would have to be his final Olympics in 1994, as he was able to participate in the Norwegian games at Lillehammer. Though a fringe sport in the host nation, it was a moment of pride for Thoresen and all the Norwegian players.
Thoresen's dedication to hockey in Norway will likely one day land him in the IIHF Hall of Fame.