Right before the start of the 2012-13 season, rumours sprouted up that former Boston Bruin PJ Axelsson was interested in coming back to the NHL. His agent said there were some teams interesting in the 38 year old Swedish forward, but nothing really came of it. On April 10, 2013; “Pebben” (PJ’s long time nickname on Frolunda HC) announced he was retiring from professional hockey for good.
You didn’t have to be an old Bruins fan to know who PJ Axelsson was. When he departed back to Sweden in 2009, he was the longest tenured Bruin on the team having joined the team for the 1997-98 season. Axelsson is best remembered as one of the most solid defensive forwards the Bruins have ever seen. Axelsson may have been the inspiration for Bergeron’s current defensive playing style (having played with Bergeron from 2004 – 2009) following his concussion in 2006-07, and it’s surprising he didn’t stick around for longer here in Boston; especially with Claude Julien loving his defensive forwards.
Axelsson wasn’t a goal scorer, well not a big one anyway. He was no Brian Rolston, he was no Bill Guerin, he was no Sergei Samsonov, he was no Glen Murray, and he was certainly no Joe Thornton. But his relentlessness attacks in the corner, his gritty playing, and his play-making IQ made him a stand out favourite among Bruins fans for a long time. Out of the 12 season he spent in Boston, he saw playoff action 8 times scoring 7 total points in 54 games; again.. not a big solid goal scorer. However out of those 8 post season appearances his two best were in the 2002 & 2004 match ups against the Montreal Canadiens. 2002’s post season saw him net 3 points in 6 games (2-1) and 2004 was more of the same (2-1=3). He was a never give up kind of player; he fought in the corners, he was a major part of the Bruins stellar PK in the 2001-02 season and he was one of the rotating alternate captains for the 2008-09 season.
Pebben found his niche in the NHL following the lock out in the shootouts. He wasn’t the kind of guy you wanted to go to at the start of the shootout, but he was certainly the kind of guy you wanted when it came down to sudden death. He was a clutch shootout performer, his two best performances coming with a GWG against Nikolai Khabibulin and a GWG against Brian Elliot . Today’s Bruins have another take no prisoners gritty kind of guy, and that is Gregory Campbell. It’s almost too fitting that Campbell wears Axelsson’s old number 11 (and it would be a treat if the Bruins decided to retire it for PJ, doubts are high though). Campbell might not be the solid defensive force that PJ was, but he’s certainly giving it one heck of a try.
Good luck with your future PJ, you will be forever missed by the fans back on Causeway Street.