Home is where the heart is. For Sweden's Jorgen Jonsson, that old saying proved very true. He resisted the National Hockey League until the age of 28. And even after a successful rookie season in the NHL, Jonsson packed his bags and went back home.
Citing personal reasons such as his family being unhappy away from Sweden, Jonsson somewhat reluctantly signed a 1 year contract with the New York Islanders in 1999-2000. Originally a draft pick of the Calgary Flames, the Swedish Elite League veteran made it clear he had no intentions of going to North America. But that did not stop the Isles from trading for his rights. The Isles had a key drawing card in convincing Jorgen to jump the Atlantic - star defenseman Kenny Jonsson. Kenny, the Isles captain during that season, is Jorgen's younger brother.
Jorgen agreed to come over in order to play with his brother, but only signed the 1 year contract as he seemed to have his mind made up before he came over that this would be a short term thing.
Jorgen was touted as a solid player who could help almost any team immediately because of his skating and defensive expertise. He was a great penalty killer and worked well on a checking line. And though his numbers did not necessarily suggest it, he had some good offensive tools too. He was a shifty skater with a good burst of speed. He was an intelligent passer and protected the puck well.
Very quietly Jorgen was one of the more effective first year players in 1999-00. In 68 games with New York he scored 11 goals and 17 assists. However the only attention he garnered was that of rumors that he would not be back the following year. Those rumors proved to be very true.
The Isles traded Jorgen by the March trading deadline to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in exchange for diminutive Swedish center Johan Davidsson. The Ducks were looking for some depth at center ice as they were making a late season push for a playoff spot. Perhaps dejected by being traded away from his brother, Jorgen's play in Anaheim was less than great - scoring just 1 goal and 2 assists in 11 games. It was as if he just wanted to get the season over with and get his family back to Sweden.
It's too bad. Had he desired to play in North America, he would have become a good player. With his defensive awareness and puck moving skills, he possibly could have been centering the Ducks number 1 line with Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.
Upon returning to Sweden, Jorgen signed a 4 year deal with Farjestad, the Swedish Elite League club that he starred with for 4 years prior to his stint in the National Hockey League. He retired in 2009 as quite the legend back in Sweden. He won 2 Olympic gold medals, two world championship gold medals, and five Swedish league titles. He was so highly respected that as a veteran he was normally named captain of Team Sweden if Mats Sundin was not available for tournaments.