Tumba Johansson

a.k.a Sven Tumba

One of the greatest legends of early European hockey was center Sven Johansson, better known as "Tumba". He got the nickname from his birthplace in Tumba, in the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden where he was born on August 27, 1931.

Tumba was a big fellow at a solid 6'3" and 210lbs. He had a little Gordie Howe in him. He was very hard to stop and impossible to separate from the puck. Tumba's strength was his heavy and quick shot that always seemed to be on target. With his combination of physical strength and good hands he was a scoring threat whenever he had the puck.

His weakness was that he didn't pass the puck as much as he should have. He didn't use his teammates very often which in one way made him a little bit of a one dimensional player. But why should he pass when he scored seemingly at will? His teammates didn't seem to mind, as was was very well liked because of his easy going attitude off the ice.

Tumba was a gift athlete, also excelling particularly in soccer and golf, representing his country in both sports. But hockey was the sport he is most associated with, spending his entire career with Djurgården IF, a Stockholm club, between 1948-66. He won the Swedish league title 8 times, six of them in a row between 1958-63. Tumba also won the league scoring title on several occasions.

Tumba represented Sweden internationally 245 times and scored 223 goals, more than anybody else in the history of the Swedish national team. The long time captain played in 14 World Championships, more than any other Swedish player, as well as four Olympic tournaments. He was a three time World Champion. and was selected as the best forward in the 1957 and 1962 World Championships. His 127 points (including 84 goals) is the 5th best result in World Championship history. Only four Russians are ahead of him - Boris Mikhailov, Valeri Kharlamov, Alexander Maltsev and Vladimir Petrov. His 84 goals ranks second only behind Mikhailov.

Tumba became the first European trained player to attend an NHL camp when he went to Boston Bruins training camp in 1957. He was offered a tryout with the minor league team Quebec Aces. He played five games for the Aces and collected four assists.

Tumba however didn't sign a professional contract. Some say it was because back then it would have meant that he would have lost his amateur status. Since he wanted to represent Sweden further on the international stage he turned it down and returned to Sweden and Djurgården.

Brian McFarlane proposes a different scenario in his Original Six book series The Bruins. He quotes Johansson suggesting the reason he did not catch on in Boston was because of a practical joke he played on his unsuspecting teammates.

"I don't think the Bruins accepted me and I'm sure it was because of a practical joke I played on them one day. I saw that they all joked around with each other in the dressing room and I liked that. I wanted very much to be a part of it. I noticed they all put their false teeth in little cups before a game or practice When they went on the ice I sneaked back into the room and switched all the teeth around. Did they laugh at my little prank? No, were they ever mad. From then on it was very cool between us. A few days later the manager took me aside and told me he was sending me back to Sweden.

After his playing career was over he turned to golf and built golf courses and played successfully as well. His son became a golf pro. He was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall of Fame in 1997.


Anonymous said...

Today, October 1st, Sven Tumba passed away.

Rest in peace, Tumba.

A really good fellow has left us.

kenny booth jr said...

TUMBA came to taberg to speak at a ski trophy award ceremony 1960 61 he told a story of how he was introduced to a man who had no respect for hockey only for soccer tumba said he would like to try this and a game was played TUMBA scored 5 goals and said to this man after the game this was fun what do you call this game he was a hero to young boys all over sweden he will be missed by those he touched

Thomas E said...

According to his own book he met the Boston Bruins with their B team in 1957, and scored. And was offered a contract with ha salary of $50.000. But he turned it down since it was impossible to play for the national team if you were a profesional player.

Tumba is the only person in the world that was offered a professional contract in both hockey and football/soccer.

Joe Pelletier said...

Peter Zezel played professional soccer as well as hockey.

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