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Bruins forced to play 'Go Fish' for Soderberg

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  April 12, 2013 10:48 AM

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Over the years, our fine friends in Sweden have given us ABBA, Ace of Base, Dolph Lundgren, meatballs, and, perhaps most importantly, Malaco, the confectionary company that popularized Swedish Fish and sour watermelon slices.

It’s time for a boycott, Boston.

Stop driving your Volvos. Skip that weekend trip to IKEA. Brew some Green Mountain instead of your morning Gevalia. The Boston Bruins’ offensive woes have become a matter of national security, and Sweden, of all things, is standing in the way.

On Thursday, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation blocked Carl “The Yeti” Soderberg from joining the Bruins, despite the fact that the elusive forward had signed a deal with Boston earlier in the week. The release by his Swedish team, Linkoping, then the league, seemed like it would be only a matter of protocol. Apparently not.

As it turns out, Sweden wants Soderberg to play in the World Championships in May. Neat. Look, Sweden, it’s cute and all that you’ll be one of the host countries, but too damned bad. Had any of you actually watched the Bruins plod through Thursday night’s game against the Islanders as if they were skating in drying cement you’d understand the urgency of bringing the guy to Boston. You might even have some level of sympathy for the cause.

According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (translated via Google): “The Board has decided this evening to Carl's outlets in the squad and we want him to represent Sweden, says Hockey League vice-president Peter Forsberg told Aftonbladet…According to the agreement we have with the NHL, there is a clause which states that a player who has been selected in the national team should not play in the NHL. It is a matter of principle for us we release on this can start an avalanche of transitions after the season, says Peter Forsberg told Aftonbladet.Defying Soderberg covenant may mean that he does not get to play future international championships.”

What is this? Sweden or East Germany?

For his part, Soderberg has already taken on the role of defiant countryman and said he won’t play for Team Sweden. According to expressen.se (again, in translation): “He has refused to coach Pär Mårts. And he has made it clear through the contract that has been developed for the transition to the Boston Bruins in the NHL. Par (Mårts) talked to him last week and I've even seen the document which Carl has written and where it says that he does not want to play in the World Cup, says Tre Kronor general manager Tommy Boustedt.”

That same article includes a Q&A with Tre Kronor general manager Tommy Boustedt:

Will Carl Soderberg banned from future games in the Tre Kronor if he goes over to Boston and NHL?

- I can not speculate because it's a race issue, but definitely he breaks the rules.It's that simple, says Boustedt.

Sad news for Carl Soderberg?

- Of course it is, but at the same time our board has a responsibility to Swedish ice hockey because there's something called precedent. It can get all dams to crack unless rules are followed, says Boustedt.

Tommy Boustedt believe that the NHL is behind the Swedish Ice Hockey Association decision.

- Sweden is in negotiations with the NHL on a new NHL contract and neither the NHL or we want the negotiations to fail. Sweden is outside North America, the largest supplier of players and they want to have a good cooperation with us and we also believe in cooperation, he said.

- I suspect that Boston would like to proceed with this and we do not expect the matter been resolved, but we are awaiting what happens.

Here’s what’s going to happen, Mr. Boustedt: Soderberg, who scored 31 goals with 29 assists this season for Linkoping, is going to catch the next flight from Sweden to Logan, and he’s going to suit up and learn to adjust his game to the smaller ice surface in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Get it? The Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s the one with the trophy. A big one (thank you, Jeremy Jacobs). He’s not going to play for whatever participation award you guys hand out overseas, he’s going to play for the most historic championship trophy in professional sports. Sorry he doesn’t want to play for you though. That’s gotta sting. The Sedins may very well be available pretty early on in May, though.

Obviously, this could all be resolved with a little more greasing of the skids, but it’s just downright stupid that Sweden has to make this into an international affair. The Bruins have a contract in place. Soderberg – finally – wants to play for said contract in place. And the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation is what’s holding things up? Sweeten the deal then with a fruit basket, an autographed photo of Blades, and game tape of Milan Lucic over the past 25 games just in order to convey the utmost urgency of getting Soderberg in here. You know how nobody can resist puppy slideshows? The Swedish won't be able to resist letting Soderberg come to Boston after watching Lucic for more than seven or eight shifts.

Nobody really knows what to expect from Soderberg, and frankly, it’s up in the air as to what Claude Julien decides to do with him (Claude, is it too hard to have a Tyler Seguin-David Krejci-Jaromir Jagr top line? Please? Please?) is anyone’s guess as well. But heck if Sweden is going to block him from potentially helping out down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The days of communism are over, Sweden. Soderberg is a free man, all grown up, and can do and play where he wants. Sorry. Those are the rules we play by here in America, land of the free, or have you not received the memo? Sorry he doesn’t want to play for you, but keep trying to force that issue. I’m sure things will work out splendidly.

And so, just as it has been since 2007, when the Bruins acquired his rights for Hannu Toivonen, Soderberg will be a Bruin. Someday.

We think.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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