At 21, when he received the Elite Series Rookie-of-the-Year award for the 1990-91 season, Djurgarden's young goalie Tommy Soderstrom said that if a position had not opened at the famous club, he would have quit hockey and turned to roulette.
That season the young goaltender made his successful debut in the big leagues. After 17 games, Djurgarden's sports director Karlsson told everybody that the team had found a new Pelle Lindberg. Soderstrom had good reaction time and was always calm, cool and collected.
Djurgarden won the national title with the young goalie and, for the first time in the history of Swedish hockey, the European Cup. That same season, Tre Kronor chief coach Conny Evensson invited Soderstrom to join the national team. Evensson was one of the judges who had named him Rookie-of-the-Year. Besides Soderstrom, the other candidates were Luleo forward Robert Nordberg, Malmo forward Hakan Alund and Mo Do forward, the 17-year-old whiz kid Peter Forsberg, who has become a star in the NHL.
In 1991 and 1992 Soderstrom won the world gold and in 1992 was voted the World Championship's best goaltender. In 1993 he won the silver when Sweden lost the final game to Russia. With Djurgarden, he was a two-time Swedish champion.
It is no wonder that the goaltender Swedes call 'a living wall' attracted the attention of NHL scouts. Overseas he played for the Philadelphia Flyers, the AHL's Hershey, again for the Flyers, and ended his career with the New York Islanders.
Today, one thing about Soderstrom that is rarely remembered perhaps best illustrates his courage and his character as a player. Soderstrom was discovered to have a weak heart, a condition involving a nerve of the heart muscle, and he underwent surgery four times to cure the ailment. After the fourth operation, on January 26, 1993, he was soon back on the ice. In October of that same year, he left the ice because of chronic pain and endured a fifth surgical procedure. And again, after three weeks he returned to the net.
Back in Sweden, he returned to Djurgarden and, although he did his best, the team failed to win a championship. When Tre Kronor's general manager invited him to join the national team again, he turned down the offer knowing coaches favored Tommy Salo as at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
In the 1999-2000 season, Soderstrom was often substituted by Djurgarden's young goalie Tellqvist, spawning a rumor that Soderstrom was ready to join the capital city's AIK, Djurgarden's longtime adversary. True to form, Soderstrom would rather be number one.