July 31, 2016

Mats Thelin

There was a time when European players in Boston Bruins uniforms seemed like an odd fit. The Big Bad Bruins, always banging and brawling, was not often associated with European flash and dash.

But in 1981 the Bruins made a step in that direction by drafting a Swedish defenseman by the name of Mats Thelin. Thelin joined the Boston Bruins in 1984-85. He had just come off of a season where he represented his native Sweden at the 1984 Olympics and the 1984 Canada Cup.

 He played in 73 games plus five playoff contests. Aside from a small groin injury, he made a reasonable adjustment from the European big ice to the tiny ice of the old Boston Gardens.

Thelin was described by none other than the great Swedish defender Borje Salming as "a real solid" defender. He was positionally strong and used his stick well to break up rushes and passes. He was stronger than most ever gave him credit for, too.

He may not of excelled at it or even embraced it, but Thelin was not afraid of the rough stuff. In one game he fought Hartford's Torrie Robertson and, perhaps as you'd expect, did not fare too well. He took 28 stitches to his face that night.

Offensively Thelin was never going to be a great threat. He could make a strong breakout pass but was not likely to ever rush the puck out or man a point on the power play.

Thelin's sophomore campaign was spent far too often in the medical room. He broke his foot in training camp and missed several weeks. Then he hurt his knee and couldn't finish the season. He only got 30 games in that season.

Thelin returned to play 59 games in 1986-87. But again Thelin could not finish the season or participate in the playoffs. This time he had a serious and nagging groin injury.

Not getting a lot of ice time, Thelin made that his last NHL season. Once his contract expired he returned to AIK Solna back in Sweden for many seasons. He finally hung up his skates in 1994.

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