Lennart "Lill-Strimma" Svedberg

Most experts regard Lennart "Lill-Strimma" Svedberg to be the most talented Swedish defenseman ever. He was an exceptionally creative defenseman and a dazzling puck handler who was a joy to watch.

Lill-Strimma was born on February 29, 1944 in Östrand and began playing hockey as a forward. As a senior he made his debut in Wifsta / Östrand (later Timrå) as a 16-year old.

Lill-Strimma made his international debut on the Swedish national team in a game against Czechoslovakia on December 8,1961. At that time he was only 17-years old and one of the youngest ever to represent Sweden. He scored the game tying 3-3 goal in his debut (a 4-3 win). At that time he still was a forward.

When he arrived to Brynäs IF in 1963 the trainer Thure Wickberg told Lill-Strimma that he would switch him to defense. Little did he know that it would be one of the best moves ever suggested to Swedish player. At that time both journalists and fans thought it was a crazy move. Why change the position of a player who's on the National team? Soon it became clear that the always smiling Lill-Strimma was born to be a defenseman.

His unpredictable moves and effortless skating made him extremely hard to stop. He was a Paul Coffey type of player in regards of skating and offensive play. He didn't score many goals, but he set up a lot and created havoc in the offensive zone with an attacker's mentality. He had his weaknesses in his defensive play, which of course wasn't strange considering the fact that he had been a forward for over 15 of his formative years.

After the 1968 Olympic tournament legendary Russian trainer Anatoli Tarasov invited Lill-Strimma to Moscow to train with the CSKA team. Lill-Strimma even played a friendly game for the CSKA team against Dynamo Moscow. Tarasov was fascinated by Lill-Strimma's spontaneous rushes and his creativeness.

Lill-Strimma remembered how he was late for one of the training sessions.

"One morning I came late to the training, so they punished me by letting me jump over the boards back and forth 25 times. You bet that I wasn't late again."

In 1969 he was on Detroit Red Wings training camp, training alongside such legends as Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. Detroit's GM Sid Abel suggested to Lill-Strimma that he should stay in Detroit. But a home sick Lill-Strimma and his wife went back home to Sweden.

Lill-Strimma represented Sweden 125 times, scoring 16 goals. He was named to the World Championship All-Star team three years in a row, 1968-70. In 1970 he was voted as the best defenseman in the World Championships.

In the Swedish league he played 229 games and scored 72 goals. His clubs in Sweden were Wifsta / Östrand (later Timrå IK) (1960-62), Grums IK (1962-63), Brynäs IF (1963-67), Mora IK (1967-69) and Timrå IK (1969-72). He won a national championship with Brynäs in 1964

On July 29, 1972 hockey fans recieved the shocking message that Lennart "Lill-Strimma" Svedberg had died in a car accident, only 28 years old and at the peak of his hockey career.

Those who saw him play will never forget his high speed rushes over the ice that captured fans imagination everywhere. He was a bohemian player and didn't follow any given patterns. It was this unique trademark that made him stand out among the players.

He was a "Michelangelo" on ice.

Special Thanks To Patrick Houda

1 comment:

Erik Ledin said...

About his defensive play - I saw him in his last season in Timra. Every game. A number of times when the rest of his team was out manouvered by Brynas players, he and the keeper stopped Brynas´ three forwards from scoring. This was nothing unique, but normal when he was on the ice. Brynas won the legue that year(again) and had at least one forward line in the national team. Above is just about those lines in the national team. His role in Timra made him grow as a defender. Seing Lennart play against the Soviets - there was no wonder Tarasov was impressed. Two legends.

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