Söderhamn is a small harbor city located on the Baltic Sea two and one half hours north of Stockholm. Close to twelve thousand people live there. Almost all are crazy about the sport of bandy. Broberg is their team. Brobergs IF was founded in 1919 and is a proud five time Swedish bandy champion. From 1975 to 1983 Broberg was also four time champion of the Bandy World Cup, held every October in Ljusdal. The club is an aristocrat in Swedish bandy. Pedigree and Legacy. Old time bandy. In the fall of 1985 Broberg is led by consummate goal scorer Par Hedqvist. The Swedish scoring champion in both the 1978-79 and 1984-85 seasons, Hedqvist also scored all four goals in the 1983 World Cup as Broberg defeated Soviet power Jenisej 4-0 in the championship game. He is an expert at corner and free strokes. He is deadly on penalty shots. If Broberg is bandy aristocracy then Par Hedqvist is a Prince of Bandy.
In October 1985 Broberg is again competing at the World Cup in Ljusdal. They are coming off a successful season which saw them crush Villa/Lidkoping 7-0 and 14-4 in the Swedish quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Boltic in the semifinals. In Ljusdal, Broberg is placed in a bracket that is promising for advancement to the championship round. They must get by host club Ljusdal and Finnish team Vastus. There is no concern that Broberg will with easily defeat the team from the US, Bagheera.
Bagheera has won the US Championship for the second consecutive year. Playoffs were instituted in the US league for the first time in the 1984-85 season. Bagheera, which finished the regular season with a 5-3 record, defeats Slice on Ice 5-4 in the semifinals and then tops Jesco 5-2 in the Championship match. The Bagheera team which arrives in Ljusdal, however, is bolstered by other players from the US league, together with Jeff Johnson who is the goal keeper for Vanersborg. Nine of the Bagheera players skated for the US in the 1985 World Championships. Perhaps even more important, nine of the Bagheera players were on the ice in Ljusdal the previous October in Bagheera's near miracle 2-1 loss to Boltic.
The opening match of the tournament pits Bagheera against the host club Ljusdal. Thousands fill the stands hoping to see a goal fest. They are disappointed as Ljusdal scores only five times. Not a single goal comes easy. There is a familiar quote attributed to philosopher George Santayana. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" Broberg is next on Bagheera's schedule but the Prince and his aristocrats have not deigned to watch the Ljusdal match. They have also forgotten how Bagheera almost beat the mighty Boltic the previous year.
One minute into the Bagheera- Boltic game Bill Wood skates through the entire Broberg back line. His goal is a repeat of the one he scored against Sweden seven months earlier in the World Championships. 1-0 Bagheera. Broberg ties the score ten minutes later. Just before halftime Bagheera strikes again. Dave Reichel blows a shot past the Broberg keeper. At halftime Bagheera leads Broberg 2-1.
Word gets out. A potential extraordinary upset is taking place. Five minutes into the second half the crowd has doubled from two thousand to four thousand. As the second half plays out the score remains 2-1. The pressure that Broberg is applying is intense. Bagheera holds strong. With ten minutes left in the game the referee awards a penalty shot to Broberg. Stepping up to take the shot is Par Hedqvist. Close to two thousand spectators have gathered behind the Bagheera goal and the protective netting. Someone has unfurled a large US flag and the chanting has begun. "USA, USA, USA". Positioned behind the penalty circle line, ready to sprint in if there is a rebound, are the Bagheera players. We aren't chanting. We are taunting.
"You don't deserve this Hedqvist"
You are going to miss this"
Par Hedqvist, who never misses a penalty shot, misses this one. Wide right.
Play resumes but less than two minutes later the referee awards Broberg a second penalty shot. Once again Par Hedqvist is taking the shot. The throng behind the net is screaming. So are the Bagheera players.
"You're gone miss this one too Hedqvist"
"You totally suck"
Hedqvist is rattled. His shot goes over the top of the net. He has missed again.
Bagheera is now playing two skaters short. We draw into a shell around our penalty area and the goal. Broberg is unable to skate through. We step up to stop them. They are unable to shoot the ball through. The shots are blocked by Bagheera defenders. So instead Broberg flips the ball in front of our goal where a battle takes place. The ball does not go into the goal but a third penalty shot is awarded. Less than six minutes remain as Hedqvist steps up again. Will the man who never misses miss three in a row? Not in this universe. The score is tied 2-2. But Bagheera is now 3 men down. Seven skaters against ten. Still, Broberg cannot find a way through. A shot deflects off a Bagheera defender and over the end line. Broberg has a corner stroke with less than three minutes remaining. We have only seven skaters. Two rush the potential shooters. Four remain in the goal, two on each post. I am the sweeper. I come from outside the goal looking to cover a rebound. The pass is made from the right of our goal. The shot is taken.The ball hits one of the players on the post closest to me. It rebounds directly out to a Broberg player skating in towards the goal. He is 15 feet from our goal when the ball arrives on his stick. I have only made it twelve feet when he shoots. The ball goes past me and then past Jeff Johnson into the goal. The game ends 3-2. The jaws of victory have spit Bagheera out. We have repeated the history begun with Boltic the previous October of almost accomplishing the inconceivable. Again we fall just short. We are condemned.
The crowd, however, does not agree. Hundreds rush out onto the ice to shake our hands, thump our backs, bear hug. A thousand more are waiting for us as we exit the ice to walk to our locker room. They have never seen such intensity. Such determination. We are warriors. Heroes. Even in defeat. Because the final score does not always determine who the true winner is.
Tournament Director Bjorn Swartze finds me. he has arrived at the game with fifteen minutes left. As he embraces me says directly into my ear.