Hakan Loob, a definite member of the NHL's all time best-names team, holds a special place in the heart of Calgary Flames fans. That may partially have to do with the fact that he disappeared from the league just when he was taking the NHL by storm.
Loob was a hard worker who adjusted well to the rougher NHL game. Even though he was dubbed "the Gretzky of Sweden" because of the records he set back home, many teams shied away from the undersized winger. He was not drafted until 181st overall in 1980.
Loob was a good puck handler with good hockey sense. Primarily an open ice player, Loob opened up by using his teammates (notably Joe Nieuwendyk in his rookie season) well. Loob would then go close to the net, looking for a quick tap in or loose puck. He had a strong wrist shot and the hand skills to score from in tight, but rarely scored from further out.
The agile Loob came over in 1983 and put together a string of three 30 goal seasons together (30, 37 and 31). He had a mysteriously disappointing 1986-87 season, scoring just 18 goals.
It was around that time that rumors started that Loob wanted to return home to Sweden. He wanted to raise his children back home and in their native language. And at that time he could make comparable back home. Somehow the Flames convinced him to stay another couple of yeara.
It's a good thing he did stay, as it was a magical time for Loob and the Flames. In 1987-88 Loob became the first Swedish player in NHL history to score 50 goals. He added 56 assists for 106 points, leading all Flames player. But disappointment would be found in the playoffs, with an early exit.
The Flames erased all playoff disappointment forever by capturing the Stanley Cup in 1989. Loob was a big part of it. His goal production fell off to just 27 goals, but he still registered for 85 points. He added 8 goals and 17 points in the playoffs.
With a Stanley Cup ring added to his resume, Loob made the tough decision to leave the NHL. Family reasons were the driving reason behind his decision, and he never regretted it.
"My oldest son, Henrik, is 8 years old. He went through some pretty tough times last fall in school here. He's feeling pretty good about himself now, but we know we want to go back and live in Sweden eventually and we think that's where we want him to grow up," he said.
"It has nothing to do with hockey or money," he added. "If those were the issues then I'd play here for three or four more years."
Loob continued to play in Sweden, returning to Farjestads for 7 more seasons. Loob retired in 1996 as one of the greatest players in Swedish Elite League history. He owned league records for goals and points in a season. He helped Farjestads to win the 1981 SEL championship. He is also one of the rare players to win the Stanley Cup, the World Championships and Olympic gold medals.
After leaving the ice Loob became manager of Farjestads. His dedication to Farjestads and Swedish hockey in general is commendable.
There are few bigger legends of Swedish hockey than Hakan Loob. The Swedish Elite League honoured him by naming their trophy for the top goal scorer after him. He is also enshrined in the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.