Leif Holmqvist

This is Leif Holmqvist, universally hailed as "Honken." With 202 games played with the national team he is one of the greatest goaltenders in Swedish hockey history.

He did not always wear that mask. He either went maskless, as indicated here to the right, or wore a regular player's helmet. He suffered 200 stitches to his face before donning the mask.

Twice the theatrical Holmqvist was named as the Swedish Player of the Year, one of only three players to ever win that prestigious award more than once (Anders Andersson and Peter Forsberg were the others). In 1969 he was named as the best goaltender in the world at that year's World Championships. In 1999 he was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame.

He may have seemed born to play in net, but he did not start stopping pucks until the age of 11, when his youth club's goalie fell ill. Holmqvist strapped on the pads, never to take them off.

Just five years later, in 1964, Holmqvist was promoted to the Swedish Elite League. Just 16 years old, he was considered to be that good. He joined AIK, but not without some controversy. Stromsbro, his former team, cried foul, and forced AIK to compensate them with 17,000 Krona, a huge sum of money back then. Over the next decade and Holmqvist would lead AIK to become a power, although they could never knock off Brynas from Gavle.

Although he was beloved at home, on the international stage Holmqvist became a star. His battles against the Soviets in the 1964 Olympics and against the Czechoslovakians in the 1969 World Championships held in Stockholm remain legendary all these years later.

Holmqvist tried coming to North American late in his career. In 1973-74 he started out in the Detroit Red Wings organization, although he remained in Europe playing with the London Lions. He is pictured to the right in the Lions jersey.

Two years later he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, playing 19 games with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers, even once fighting New England Whalers' Swedish goaltender Christer Abrahamsson.

World renowned, Holmqvist never won a major tournament, no World Championship or Olympic gold. He did win three World Championship silver medals and four bronze medals. Just as importantly he won over the hearts of hockey fans everywhere, especially in Sweden.

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