June 18, 2009

Kenny Jönsson retires

Defenseman Kenny Jönsson announced today, at the age of 34, that he has played his last game of hockey. The announcement was made in the newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad, that had made a longer interview with Kenny.

- I feel that I'm satisfied. I don't have the passion that is needed to play another season. Maybe I've had enough after 19 seasons at senior level, he says.


- It feels good to have taken this decision and I'm proud to be able to finish at the top.

At the top is exactly where Jönsson finished. At the World Championship this year, he wasn't on the ice for a single goal against and had the best plus-minus in the entire tournament. His performance earned him a spot on the All-Star Team.

If we rewind back to the early 90s, we find an 18-year-old Kenny Jönsson in the Rögle BK team that got promoted to the highest division in Sweden for the first time since 1969. The year after, in the 1992-93 season, Jönsson was named the Rookie of the Year in the SEL and he eventually gets drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs at 12th overall in the 1993 NHL Draft.

Before he made the jump over the pond, he played in two World Junior Championship finals (two All-Star Team appearances and voted Best Defenseman in 1994), was the Junior of the Year in the SEL in 1994 and was part of Sweden's gold medal winning team at the 1994 Olympics.

Jönsson's time in the Leafs jersey was short-lived as he already after 89 games was traded to the New York Islanders in a deal that brought Wendel Clark back to Toronto.

The Islanders were where he ended up spending most of his NHL career and he played there from 1996 to 2004. While Jönsson doesn't exactly have much awards etc from his NHL career, except for a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team, he was always considered one of the most underrated players in the league. His career high ended up being 14 goals and 40 points in the 1997-98 season.

When the NHL lockout started in 2004, Kenny returned to his beloved Rögle that were outside the SEL again. When the NHL players returned to the NHL for the 2005-06 season, he decided to stay in Sweden. In this season, as a HockeyAllsvenskan player (!), he became the first player to win the Olympics and the World Championships in the same year (together with seven other Swedes). Not only that, he was also named the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament and later was awarded The Golden Puck in Sweden.

Rögle, lead by Jönsson, ended up spending four seasons in HockeyAllsvenskan until they surprisingly were able to get promoted to the SEL after the 2007-08 season. This season, which ended up being his last, Rögle managed to stay in the SEL against all odds.

- I have won big titles, been promoted to the SEL with Rögle twice and received nice individual awards. I have gotten to experience so incredibly much more than I ever thought when I started.

Now he will concentrate on his own company and will for example open a car wash in Ängelholm, the town where Rögle plays.

An interesting note is that his older brother, Jörgen Jönsson, announced his own retirement earlier this year. Jörgen is not as known in North America as Kenny, but for example is a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, 2-time World Champion and 5-time Swedish Champion.

His career deserves its own post, so I guess I will save that one for later this summer.

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