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Humble Beginnings

Rolf Edburg & Leif Svensson

The twin summer signings of Swedish free agents Rolf Edberg and Leif Svensson made news in June, 1978. Edberg and Svensson were the first European-born and trained players to play for the Capitals. The pair was signed and brought to Washington for a press conference with their wives on the same day.

Edberg, a center, had just led the Swedish national team in scoring at the recently completed World Championship games in Prague and was Swedish Player of the Year for 1977-78. Svensson, a defenseman, was a standout for the group of Swedes that came to North America two years earlier to compete in five games against World Hockey Association clubs. Both players were veterans of Swedish Elite League play.

The signings were facilitated by Arne Stromberg, the former Swedish national team coach hired by the Caps as a European scout and advisor. The success of previous Swedish imports Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson (Winnipeg Jets) had other pro teams scurrying and scouring Europe for more NHL-caliber talent.

Five days prior to the Edberg and Svensson signings, the New York Rangers made headlines when they signed Hedberg and Nilsson to free agent deals, luring them to the NHL after the twosome ranked among WHA scoring leaders for four seasons and led the Jets to Avco Cup titles in 1976 and 1978.

Edberg spent three seasons in Washington and the NHL, Svensson two. Edberg was a team best plus-11 in his first season in the league and scored 23 goals while recording 46 points as a sophomore. He managed only eight goals and 16 points in 45 games in 1980-81, his third season in the league, and was released at the conclusion of the campaign. He returned to Sweden and played four more years as a pro in his native country.

Svensson was excellent in his first season, totaling 31 points with a respectable minus- three defensive rating. He suffered a shoulder injury in 1979-80, which limited his effectiveness and ultimately ended his career.

 

 

 

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