Sweden drops axe on Nilsson

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

A vote of confidence from captain Mats Sundin was not enough to save Hardy Nilsson's job, as he was fired yesterday as head coach of the Swedish national team. In the wake of Sweden's 6-1 loss to the Czech Republic in the World Cup playoffs, Maple Leafs' star Sundin tried to take the onus off of the 57-year-old Nilsson, telling the newspaper Aftonbladet that the players should take a large portion of the blame.

The Swedish Hockey Federation initially absolved Nilsson, but in the media and fan backlash that followed it launched an investigation into how the star-studded Swedes failed again in a major tournament. A report was due early next month, but association director Christer Englund announced yesterday that Nilsson was gone and national team director Claes-Goeran Wallin was in charge on an interim basis.

"We've lost our confidence in Hardy," Englund said, adding that the decision was not based solely on the World Cup loss.

Englund said Nilsson had not been active enough in promoting the team

Nilsson's contract was through 2006. Among those in the mix to replace him is Tommy Boustedt, coach of Sweden's development program.

TOUGH LOVE

On Wednesday night, the second installment of The National's feature on the NHL lockout, Leafs forward Darcy Tucker was asked about the money players make versus their on-ice punishment and the possibility they'll have injury-shortened careers.

"I know Mr. Bettman likes to think he knows a lot about hockey," Tucker told the CBC. "But I've never seen him stop a puck, or bleeding when he gets a shot in the face or getting (pain-killing) needles in the arms, back and stomach. Players are rewarded handsomely, we understand that, but at the same time we work very hard for what we have."

THE PETERS PRINCIPLE

Forward Andrew Peters, the penalty-minute leader on the Buffalo Sabres last season, departed this week to play for Boden of the Swedish second division. Lest you think the 6-foot-4, 247-pound Peters is going to Scandinavia on a reign of terror, he told the Buffalo News he's heading overseas to work on his skills, see a new country and "have some fun". Though eligible to play in the AHL, Peters believed he would be challenged to fight again, having amassed more than 700 minutes in penalties in three years on the farm.

BRIEFLY

Leafs general manager John Ferguson could not confirm stories this week that winger Alex Mogilny will have further surgery on his arthritic hip at a Pittsburgh area medical facility ... Peter Forsberg, among a group of locked-out NHL stars playing in the Swedish Elite League, had a goal and an assist last night in his first game in his hometown of Stockholm in 10 years ... Los Angeles Kings president Tim Leiweke has been fined by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for comments he made in a radio interview concerning the league's labour problems.


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