Bengt Lundholm wasn't the greatest player to ever wear a Jets' uniform, but he was one of the most memorable. Mention his name among a crowd of die-hard fans who watched the Jets in their early NHL years and you're sure to hear some groans.
Lundholm was drafted by the Jets in the 13th round of the 1975 WHA draft, but he didn't sign with the Jets until June 1981 following their second season in the NHL. Upon his arrival, he was often teamed with fellow Swedes Willy Lindstrom and Thomas Steen and the all-Swede line helped lead the Jets their first NHL playoff berth in 1982.
Lundholm went on to play four seasons with the Jets until, seemingly unwanted, he returned to AIK in Sweden to help them avoid relegation in 1985-86. Upon the completion of the Swedish Elite League season, he came back to Winnipeg for one final time and provided the lifeless Jets with a much-needed shot in the arm to help salvage a playoff berth from an otherwise miserable season.
Few players who have worn the Jets' uniform over the years had the grace on skates that Lundholm did. Often displaying more skill than his contemporaries on the ice of the Winnipeg Arena, Lundholm must have thought that the most popular word in the English language was “shoot”. The echo from exasperated fans pleading for him to shoot still rings in many ears around Winnipeg.
His fatal flaw, in the eyes of many of those who watched him, was his reticence to shoot the puck. Time and again, he would make a marvelous play, only to pass up a glorious scoring opportunity and dish the puck off to one of his linemates. More often than not, the opportunity was wasted.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of his tenure in Winnipeg came on New Year's Day 1985 when he was presented with a penalty shot against Rejean Lemelin of the Calgary Flames. With the cheers of the crowd and the hopes of Jets fans behind him, Lundholm took off from center ice towards Lemelin. As he approached Lemelin, with no one on either side to pass to, the puck rolled off his stick. Alas, the penalty shot became the penalty skate.
Once again, cheers turned to groans.
Lundholm's career as a Winnipeg Jet mirrored that of his team. Always full of promise, neither Lundholm nor the Jets saw that promise realized.
Lundholm dazzled fans and teammates alike, but he achieved notoriety with a legacy of unfulfilled expectations. As a result, he remains one of the most memorable figures in the franchise's history.