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February 21, 2016

Tommy Soderstrom

Goalies are said to be quirky by nature. If you earn a living stopping 100 mile per hour frozen rubber bullets, that could be understandable.

Those who knew Tommy Soderstrom said he was as normal as a person. But fans often assumed he was one of the odder goalies in the NHL.

The most noticeable thing was his unmistakable Jofa helmet and oversized cage he wore. He absolutely never would put any tape on his stick. And when the play was at opposite end of the ice he was known to hide his entire body deep in his own net.

Whatever works is the motto adopted by Soderstrom and his teammates and coaches.

Soderstrom grew up playing as hockey on the frigid outdoor rinks on the outskirts of Stockholm, Sweden. He had always been a goalie from the age of eight forward.

He would eventually emerge as a NHL prospect. He was passed over in his first two NHL drafts but was drafted as a 20 year old 214th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990.

The Flyers looked to have a late-round draft day steal soon thereafter. Soderstrom followed up his draft season with a fantastic campaign with Durgardens of the Swedish League. Over the next couple of seasons Soderstrom emerged as the top young goalie in Sweden, representing the national team at the 1991 Canada Cup and the 1992 Olympics and 1992 World Championships, where he won gold after shutting out the powerful Russians.

This success rose his NHL profile. He came to the NHL and became workhorse goalie with Flyers as a rookie in 1992-93, winning 20 of his 44 games.

Just as Soderstrom's career appeared to be peaking, it threatened to come crumbling down.

As his rookie season began he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a potentially life-threatening heart ailment. With doctor's help he was able to play his rookie season but he faced five heart operations to fix the defect.

Soderstrom's suffered a miserable sophomore jinx in his second season, wining just six of 34 contests and even being demoted to the minors.

In 1994 Soderstrom was traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for former Flyers legend Ron Hextall. The Islanders teams were pretty weak back then, no matter how valiantly the Swedish goaltending tandem of Tommy Soderstrom and Tommy Salo played.

Soderstrom played parts of three seasons with the Islanders - winning just 19 of his 78 games played - before returning to Sweden. He exited the NHL with a career 45-69-19 record in 156 NHL career games.

Soderstrom continued to live in Stockholm in his post-hockey days, working as a stock trader.

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