Thursday, December 16, 2010

Czech hockey legend Bubník discusses Czech junior hockey

Photo courtesy Aleksi Stenberg.
Augustin Bubník was 21 years old when he played on Czechoslovakia's 1949 World Championship hockey team. In fact, he scored the game-winning goal in the third period of the decisive game against Canada, whacking the puck out of mid-air and into the net.

"No, of course not!" he insisted, when asked if it was a high stick, making a gesture with his hands at chest level. "The Canada players said it was high stick, but referee said no, it was a goal."

But Czechoslovakia did not win another gold medal at the World Championships until 1972. Over fears of defections, the team was prevented by its communist government from defending its title at the 1950 tournament in London. Eventually, Bubník and six of his teammates spent time in jail, and none of them were allowed to play for the national team again. The result was a drastically weakened Czechoslovakian team, and the gold medal slump.

The Czech Republic won the 2010 World Championship, its sixth in 15 years. But at the junior level, they haven't won gold for nearly a decade and haven't made the semi-finals in the past five years. This year, they're considered a longshot to make the quarter-finals. They aren't producing as many great young hockey players as in the past, as shown in the drop in Czech players chosen in the NHL Entry Draft over the past several years.

As someone who played at the highest level of Czechoslovakian hockey and also coached youth and junior hockey in the country for decades, helping to develop future stars such as Ivan Hlinka and Jiří Bubla, who would be better than Bubník to evaluate the current state of Czech and Slovak hockey?

Recently, Bubník visited a Prague high school to talk to students about his fascinating story of hockey, prison, and communist-era justice. After he was finished, I had the opportunity to talk to him for a few minutes. He was interested in speaking to somebody from Canada and took delight in re-telling the story of his winning goal. He also had a few things to say about the development of hockey players in his homeland.

Some of his observations can be read in my article about the current problems facing the Czech and Slovak hockey programs, "Where Have All the Prospects Gone" at

No comments:

Post a Comment