Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HAGEL! Sven Tumba (d. 10-1-11)


      Sven Tumba, the three-sport star who was honored as the best hockey player in Sweden and later became a golf pioneer in his country and the former Soviet Union, has died. He was 80.

     He died overnight at a Stockholm hospital after an illness, the Swedish Ice Hockey Association said on its website Saturday.

      "Swedish ice hockey has lost one of its biggest players through time," said Christer Englund, the association chairman. "With his ice hockey knowledge and with his enthusiasm he made ice hockey popular and attracted more people to our sport."

      Tumba was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997. He also played on Sweden's national soccer team in the early 1950s and became a Swedish champion while with Djurgarden in 1959. 

      Starting in 1951, Tumba also played hockey for Djurgarden and won eight Swedish championships and three goal-scoring titles. He represented Sweden at 14 world championships and four Winter Olympics. He was honored as the best forward at the 1957 and 1962 worlds, and top goal-scorer at the 1964 Winter Olympics when Sweden's amateurs finished second behind the Soviet Union's state professionals.

      In 1999, he was lauded as the best hockey player in Swedish history, beating out such players as former NHL MVP Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin, both Olympic champions.

     In 1957, he helped Sweden win the world title ahead of the Soviet Union before an outdoor crowd of more than 50,000 at Lenin Stadium.

        The organizers did not have the Swedish national anthem ready for the postgame ceremony, so the Swedish players sang Sweden's most famous schnapps song that was broadcast over the PA system.


      "Hockey was my whole life, that's what my heart was in," he told Swedish Radio in an interview this summer.

       According to the association, Tumba in 1958 became one of the first European players to attend an NHL training camp, but never signed with the Boston Bruins and returned to Sweden.

         After retiring from hockey, Tumba turned his attention to playing golf, though  he also took on course design and became an ambassador for the game. In the early 1960s he took his first swing on Sweden's oldest golf course on Lidingo island outside Stockholm, putting his ball on the green before two-putting for par on the first hole. He was hooked on the game thereafter.

     "Golf is not a sport, it's a disease," he told Swedish media after discovering his newfound love for the sport.


      As a golf pro, he founded the Scandinavian Enterprise Open, now the Nordea Masters and one of the best attended European Tour events. Tumba designed several courses in Sweden and the first in the Soviet Union, a 10-minute drive from Red Square in Moscow.

    "I started thinking seriously about it after taking the Soviet hockey players to my indoor driving range in Stockholm in the late 1960s", Tumba said in an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow a year before the course opened in 1989.

      Mike Tyson and Pele were among those attending a crowded ceremony when the driving range opened. 

     During the Swedish Golf Federation's centennial in 2004, Tumba received an award as the most influential individual in Swedish golf, ahead of Annika Sorenstam among others.

       "They laughed at me in the 1960s when I predicted that golf would become one of the most popular sports in Sweden," Tumba told the AP in the late 1980s. "But I was right. Anyone can play golf in Sweden, not only the wealthy."

      Swedish golfer Robert Karlsson told the AP at the back of the 18th green at St. Andrews at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on Saturday that Tumba leaves a great sports legacy.

      "He will be up there with the best of all the Swedish sports people. He definitely has a legendary status," he said. "He was a fantastic person and helped our sport a lot. He will be greatly missed. He was such an inspirational person, full of energy, with huge vision and dreams. He achieved a lot of them."



      During his final years, Tumba devoted much of his time to the Sven Tumba Education Fund, a global project using sports to help children develop interests in reading and writing, teamwork, sharing and self-respect. In 2006, the fund was endorsed by FIFA.

      Tumba was born Sven Johansson, one of the most common family names in Sweden. In 1965 he changed his family name to Tumba—after a small town south of Stockholm where he was born.


       During most of his retired life, Tumba lived with his wife, Mona, in West Palm Beach, Fla., visiting Sweden in the summer.

       In addition to his wife, Tumba is survived by four sons—Tommie, Johan, Stefan and Daniel.

       Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report from Carnoustie, Scotland.



Until reading this obituary and then following up with other articles published in the European press, I was unaware of Sven Tumba and his tremendous career as a multi-sport champion in Sweden, his good works and his latter-day 3-season annual residence in the southern U.S. 

His story -- told by third-parties in the third-person -- no "auto-hagiographies" in the current fashion, either before or after the age of 25, for this athlete/celebrity -- is extremely uplifting and impressive.  The story about singing the Swedish schnapps song at the 1957 hockey world championships in Moscow recounted above is utterly charming, as is Sven Tumba's smile.  A list of Sven Tumba's athletic accomplishments is found Here.


  1. "Golf is not a sport, it's a disease"

    Ever since seeing a healthy 32-year-old Indycar driver named Dan Wheldon blow himself to smithereens in a ball of fire on a race track, two nights ago, in what has been termed a "sporting disaster," I've been doing a private inventory of "sports" which, if not literal diseases, should rank as aggravating afflictions upon that other race... the human one.

    Boxing came to the fore (oops, golfing metaphor!) early on in this private inventory.

    Remarkable to discover Mike Tyson, Savage God, out on that Soviet driving range with Pele (whose game I believe actually qualifies as a sport).

    And touching to think that the schnapps song had to be summoned for that earlier world championship occasion.

    My research into Swedish schnapps songs has proved a tad frustrating. Either these terrible late nights have left me completely deranged, or some of those schnapps songs are completely deranged. (Perhaps both.)

    I See the Moon

    I see the snaps and the snaps sees me
    down through my hals to my vänstra knee.
    Please let the snaps now leave the glass,
    go to my mage down.
    Over the bottles, over the glass
    faces are shining på vårt kalas.
    Please let the snaps now leave the glass,
    go to my mage down.
    Hell and Gore

    (Traditional Swedish)
    Okänd författare

    (Something tells me Google Translate has had one too many skatefuls of the national beverage.)

  2. This song is splendid. I think I'll ask Jane to set it to music. Her new composing efforts on guitar are really delightful and remind me of those amazing sights of overnight plant and flower growth. Mike Tyson and Pele is a strange thought indeed, although I absolutely believe it. I think the strangest golf pairing I ever heard of (though not to the participants, I suppose) concerns devoted Jamaican golfing buddies, Bunny Wailer and Gregory Isaacs. I can form a mental image of it and I just leave it at that. The Dan Wheldon story was so horrible and has been at the front of my mind as an image until today's disgusting animal massacre in Columbus, Ohio, which the various tv news outlets are treating as a "funny" story. There are no words. One benefit of the Sven Tumba story is that I feel I now have a new topic of discussion with a Swedish friend from Tuxedo Park. Tinka grew up mostly in Latin and South America and has lived in the US her entire adulthood. But she's Swedish through and through and I always feel distinctly and inappropriately Swedish "uncultured" in her presence. No more. Curtis