Dick Tarnstrom was born January 20, 1975 in Sundbyberg, Sweden. The 12th choice, 272nd overall selection of the New York Islanders in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Tarnstrom only came to North America in 2001-02 opting to hone his skills in Sweden with AIK Solna before making the trek to the NHL.
The Sundyberg, Sweden native spent nine seasons with AIK and was a two-time member of Sweden's World Junior team in 1994 and 1995 before making his professional debut with the Islanders in 2001-02.
Tarnstrom spent the majority of the 2001-02 season with the Islanders while playing a handful of games with its AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. An offensively gifted defenseman, Tarnstrom played the 2002-03 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming a top point producer on the blue-line while quarterbacking the Penguins powerplay. Coming off his career best year offensively in 2002-03, when tallied 41 points (7-34-41) despite playing in only 61 games, Tarnstrom returned even stronger in 2003-04.
After Mario Lemieux season came to an abrupt end, Tarnstrom took over offensively for the young struggling Penguins leading the team in scoring with 52 points (16-36-52). Once the Penguins season came to an end, Tarnstrom went on to join Team Sweden at the 2004 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. In his second appearance the World Championships, his being in 2003, Tarnstrom was instrumental in leading Sweden to the gold medal game, only to come up short in a hard-fought 5-3 loss to Team Canada. Although, Tarnstrom and Team Sweden came up short in their bid to capture gold, Tarnstrom's strong play on the swedish blueline would earn Top Defenseman honours at the tournament.
A member of Sweden's World Cup team in 2004, Tarnstrom returned to his homeland during the lock-out year of 2004-05. He returned to the Penguins line-up the following year and became one of the team's top defensive leaders. Tarnstrom went on to play 33 games with the Pens before subsequently being acquired by the Edmonton Oilers in January, 2006. Tärnström was part of the cinderella Edmonton Oiler club that made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost out in game 7 of the finals to the Carolina Hurricanes. After a competing overseas with HC Lugano of this Swiss League, Transtrom returned to the Oilers after signing as a free agent in July, 2007. His return to Edmonton was short lived however, 29 games into the 2007-08 season Tarnstrom was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Curtis Glencross.