Thursday, February 03, 2011

Forsberg's legacy in danger of taking another hit

By Michael Rushton

Philadelphia - With the Super Bowl just days away, the National Football League is basking in the glow of popularity and television ratings that make it the most successful league in the country.

For the National Hockey League, business goes on as usual. While the NHL now gets its shot in the sun every New Year's Day with the very popular Winter Classic and is coming off a new-look All-Star format that caught people's attention from coast to coast, it is unlikely the league will be pulling ahead of the NFL in ratings anytime soon.

North American hockey has many reasons to look up to its pigskin counterpart, but something the league doesn't need is a joke similar to the one a certain crocs-wearing quarterback has unleashed offseason after offseason in the NFL.

The league is close to having its own Brett Favre in the form of 37-year-old Peter Forsberg, a massively talented player that could be remembered as one of the all-time greats but refuses to acknowledge his days of skating with the big boys are over.

Of course, comparing Favre to Foppa is a little unfair. While many out there got too good of a look at many parts of Favre's aging body, Forsberg has at least kept it consistent with one lingering issue: his right foot. But in the world of professional sports, it only takes one breakdown to stall a career and that is something Forsberg may be beginning to realize as he makes his latest comeback attempt.

The former MVP said he wanted to see where he was physically when he began skating with the Colorado Avalanche in late January and nearly two weeks later he is finding out he is far behind. Forsberg took part in a high-tempo practice on Wednesday that left him tired and winded afterwards.

"It goes quick, absolutely, and I hadn't had a real practice in like nine months, so today was the first five-on-five," said Forsberg. "You can ask any athlete. When you get out there with professionals -- with real guys who have been skating and practicing the whole year, yes, it goes fast."

Once upon a time, the game moved much slower for Forsberg, who hopefully can soon come to terms that his time in the NHL has passed, however unfair that may be. Injuries took away large chunks of his time with the world's best, but the slick center still put together a career that many do and will envy: two- time Stanley Cup champion, MVP, Olympic and World Championship gold-medal winner.

While Favre was able to comeback from "retirement" and still be successful as recent as the 2009 season, when he took the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game, Forsberg's attempts have been less fruitful. He has played in just 126 regular-season NHL games since the 2004-05 lockout and none since the '07-08 playoffs. Like he hopes to do this year, Forsberg joined the Avalanche late that season, but was limited to just nine regular-season games and seven playoff contests due to injury.

Perhaps that is why Forsberg is treading lightly this time around. He said Wednesday that he will make a decision in the near future, but that it is tough to reach one after just three practices.

"Definitely, this time around I don't want to make a stupid decision," he said. "I've been coming back way to many times and it hadn't really worked out and I don't want to come back and not be at the level I want to be at. So that's maybe why it's taking longer than usual."

Still, some of Forsberg's other comments seem to indicate the odds of him wearing an Avalanche sweater this season are slim.

"If I had to make a decision today, it wouldn't be that positive because it's pretty quick," he said. "So I just have to keep skating here and hopefully I get out there and see how close I can get and if I can be able to play with these guys."

Asked about his right foot, which Forsberg tries to avoid talking about specifically, he said "it's what it's always been."

That doesn't sound like a guy on a comeback trail, now does it?

If this was a movie, it would ultimately end with a defeated Forsberg skating over to the tunnel and turning off the lights of the Pepsi Center one last time, his career highlights fading in and out on screen to an emotional orchestra score. Problem is, Forsberg is from Sweden and not Hollywood and he just loves the game too much.

"I want to play. I want to play badly," he said. "That's what I'm trying here to do. I'm working out everyday and working out hard and like I said, I love to play so I just have to see if I get to play or not."

Many feel Favre's legacy has taken a hit due to his inability to walk away while on top. Forsberg may be going down the same road. That's not how he should be remembered, but in the end the decision is up to him.

Lets just hope Foppa makes the right choice.

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