a life well lived

After a nearly two month hiatus, I had finally battled through my writer’s block and written a blog that I had planned to post yesterday morning… However, the universe had other plans as I was struck with unexpected and most unwelcome inspiration in the form of the Lokomotiv plane crash. Swedish netminder Stefan Liv was among the list of players whose lives were cut short by yesterday’s tragedy.

To a lot of people “Liv” may not have been the first name to stick out among the perished, but his was a name certainly familiar to any Swedish hockey fan. Stefan Liv was actually born in Poland where he was adopted from an orphanage by a Swedish family. Liv made his Elitserien goaltending debut for HV71 in 2000 where he would play for the majority of 10 seasons. In the same year, Liv was drafted 102nd overall by Detroit and in the season that followed was nominated for Elitserien Rookie of the Year. However, he fell short to 1999 Detroit pick, Henrik Zetterberg.

Though Liv would never play a game in the Motor City with his fellow countryman (or perhaps I should say countrymen), he won three Elitserien championships with HV71 where he played nearly 400 games and holds the SEL and HV71 club record for career shutouts. Liv also represented the Swedish national team more than a handful of times in international play including 2006 when Sweden took home the gold medal in both the World Championship and the Winter Olympics. Among other honors, he received the Honken Trophy (equivalent to the NHL’s Vezina), Guldpucken (similiar to the Hart Trophy) and participated in last season’s KHL All Star Game after just one season in the league.

(left to right: Liv, Lundqvist and Zetterberg during the Gold Medal Ceremony at the Torino Olympics, 2006.)

From public reactions to his death, it is clear that Liv was a well-loved and respected player. Fellow goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was said to have reportedly buried his face in his hands when he heard the news of his friend’s death, saying, “He was just married this summer.” The Swedish prime minister even released a statement about his sorrow for the loss of one of Sweden’s most “fantastic goalies.”

Stefan Liv, like many goalies, wore the number “1.” His number will be retired by the HV71 club and displayed from the rafters in Kinnarps Arena, HV71’s home ice. Fellow Detroit goalie prospect and Honken Trophy winner Daniel Larsson (who currently wears “1”) will change his number for the 2011-2012 season, but all HV71 players will wear a number “1” patch on their jerseys to honor the memory of the goalie who was legendary to their organization.

Stefan Liv never made it to Minsk where he would have played his first game for Lokomotiv in their season opener today. He was just thirty years old. Liv still had many years of hockey ahead of him. But in his life and career that were cut much too short, he accomplished more than some accomplish in a hundred years and achieved things that, to many, are only a dream.

Vila i frid.

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