- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2011

STOCKHOLM (AP) - Sven Tumba, the Swedish sports icon who was honored in 1999 as the country’s best ever hockey player and later became a golf pioneer in Sweden and the former Soviet Union, has died. He was 80.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association said on its website Saturday that Tumba, he was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997, died overnight after a period of illness at a Stockholm hospital.

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

A three-sport star, Tumba also represented Sweden in soccer and golf. In 1954, he played five games for the national soccer team, but wasn’t on the squad that finished third in the World Cup later that year in Brazil.

In 1959, he helped lead Djurgarden to the Swedish soccer championship.

Starting in 1951, Tumba also played hockey for Djurgarden and won eight Swedish championships and three goal titles for Sweden’s winningest hockey club. He played in 14 world championships and four Winter Olympics for Sweden, and was selected the best forward at the 1957 and 1962 worlds. He was the top goal scorer in the 1964 Winter Olympics when Sweden finished second behind the Soviet Union.

In 1957, Tumba became one of the first European players to attend an NHL training camp, but never signed a contract with the Boston Bruins and returned to Sweden.

Later that season, he helped Sweden win the world championship title over the Soviet Union before an outdoor crowd of more than 50,000 at Lenin Stadium.

The organizers didn’t have the Swedish national anthem ready for the awards ceremony, so the Swedish players grabbed a mike and instead sang Sweden’s most famous schnapps song on the P.A. system.

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

After retiring from hockey, Tumba became a serious golfer, course designer and ambassador of the game. In the early 1960s, he took his first swing on Sweden’s oldest golf course on Lidingo island outside Stockholm, putting his tee ball on the green and two-putted for par on the first hole. From then on, he was hooked.

“My hobbies? Golf, golf and golf,” he said a few years ago.

As a golf pro, Tumba represented Sweden at the 1973 World Cup, he invited Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to exhibitions in Sweden and founded the Volvo Open, now the SAS Masters.

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.

Story Continues →