Peter Helander

Peter Helander arrived in the NHL with great fanfare, but he did not last very long.

Helander was 30 when he came to Los Angeles. The Kings drafted him in the 8th round, 153rd overall, in the 1982 draft after Helander really impressed at the 1982 World Championships, as well as the 1981 Canada Cup where he was playing as Borje Salming's defense partner.

Helander was already established as a star with his home club in Skelleftea, where he also earned an engineering degree and worked for a steel company. He was a strong skater who could move the puck. A self-described defensive defenseman, Helander had good size for the NHL game.

George Maguire, general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, was drooling over his late round find, bringing countryman Ulf Isaksson over with him.

It was certainly an eye opening experience for the duo.

"There are so many fights. We have very few fights in Sweden. Over there, you get in a fight and you can't play for maybe a week. It costs you four or five games," said Helander.

Neither Helander or Isaksson seemed intimidated by the aggressiveness, though, said coach Don Perry.

"The thing I like is that teams were testing them right off the bat and they weren't intimidated at all. They were throwing elbows right back. They've needed time to adjust to the different style of play and they've done very well," said Perry.

Helander found the coaching in the NHL quite a bit different.

"I think Don Perry is a very good coach, but it seems like we skate a lot more here (in practice) than we ever did in Sweden. It's a lot of hard work, but it's gotten us ready for the season."

GM Maguire expected Helander in particular to make an immediate impact. So much so that he bought out the contract of Ian Turnbull, Borje Salming's old defense partner from Toronto.

That turned out to be a bad move. The Kings blue line was thin enough already, and it got thinner before Helander really had a chance. In his seventh NHL game, a contest against Hartford on October 23rd, 1982, Helander broke his wrist.

The injury would cost Helander his career. Aside from a short minor league stint to test out his surgically repaired wrist, he never played again. He had three surgeries, but when it was obvious he could not play in the Kings 1983 training camp, Peter Helander retired.

It was a blunt end to a good career. Unfortunately North American fans never got a chance to see just how good Peter Helander could be.


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