Swedish hockey giant Nils Nilsson, one of the first true superstars of the Tre Kronor, died today in Sweden after an illness at the age of 81.
Nilsson spent his entire pro career in Sweden, joining the Forshaga youth team in 1952 and spending nearly two decades with Forshaga, Göta and Leksands, winning the Swedish Championship with Forshaga in 1969, his final season. Nilsson was also named league MVP in 1966, won Gentleman of the Year in 1967, and was a five-time league All-Star.
Nilsson first joined Tre Kronor in 1957, helping Sweden to capture only their second World Championship in history, playing in Moscow no less. Nilsson would play at six more Worlds tournaments (1958, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967), capturing another Gold in 1962, a pair of Silver (1963, 1967) and a pair of Bronze (1958, 1965) medals. Nilsson also suited up at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, winning Silver at the latter and being named Best Forward at the former. Nilsson retired as the second-best scorer in Sweden’s history (only behind Sven Tumba), and was named to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2002.
Despite his tremendous success, due to the structure of the World Championships at the time (round robin vs. elimination tournament), Nilsson actually held the IHLC just once due to Eastern European supremacy, in the dramatic finals of the 1962 World Championships in Colorado. Our condolences go out to the Nilsson family, as well as the extended hockey community, on the loss of one of the founding fathers of Swedish hockey.