Bengt Ake Gustafsson was a sturdy and powerful forward with a broad chest and short legs that made him hard to knock down in a skirmish. He always skated upright, never losing sight of the puck and ignoring the opposition's hits and hooks.
Gustafsson was a natural leader and his teammates took their cues from him. Born in Karlskoga, Sweden, he made his debut with the local hockey club and then joined Farjestad. His commitment to hockey is evidenced by a successful 20 year playing career both at home and abroad. He remains one of Sweden's most renowned hockey players.
After the 1979 World Championship in Moscow, Gustafsson was invited to Canada to play for the Edmonton Oilers. He also appeared in a number of WHA playoff games with future star Wayne Gretzky.
In 1986, while he was playing for the Washington Capitals, an injured knee forced him to return to Sweden. He was 30 years old and not about to let the injury end his career. He started over again, joining the minor league Bofors, Farjestad's farm club. There he re-established himself as a speedy forward but wasn't invited to join the national team. Tre Kronor's head coach at the time, Leif Bork, didn't think he was fit enough, but his replacement, veteran coach Tommy Sandlin, had a different opinion and recruited Gustafsson. It turned out to be a prophetic decision.
At the 1987 World Championship in Vienna, Tre Kronor captured the gold after a 25-year interruption. Gustafsson was one of the team's key players. The veteran's performance attracted the attention of Washington Capitals managers and Gustafsson returned to the NHL to play for two more seasons. The Swede is still considered one of the Capitals' all-time best forwards.
In the spring of 1989 Gustafsson again returned to Sweden, this time playing for Farjestad until 1993. He then signed a two-year contract with Austria's Feldkirch but stayed for five seasons as a player and one as a coach. While with Feldkirch, he won five Austrian national championships and in 1998 became a Euroleague Cup winner. At 40, Gustafsson was voted one of the game's best players and he and his Farjestad teammate, Tomas Rundqvist, were the first Swedes to win the Euroleague Cup, a record that still holds.
Gustafsson is a double world champion. He played 117 games for Tre Kronor and is number 130 on Sweden's "Great Men" list. Following his playing career he worked for a Swiss hockey club before becoming the head coach of Farjestads BK in the Swedish Elite League in 2002. He has also been appointed the head coach of Sweden's National Team.
*Bio courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame