Friday, March 4, 2011

The Scary Story of Jaroslav Otevřel

From Greatest Hockey

by Joe Pelletier

When one looks back at the early drafting trends of the expansion San Jose Sharks, one will notice a couple of things: giant players and Europeans.

Photo: Topps.
One player who definitely fit that trend was Jaroslav Otevřel. Otevřel was San Jose's 8th pick, 133rd overall, in the 1991 Entry Draft. Otevřel had just finished excelling in the Czechoslovakian First League with TJ Zlín where he scored 24 goals and 50 points in 49 games, plus an unusually high 105 PIM.

Otevřel played one more year in the Zlín before coming to North America in 1992-93. Jaroslav did play in 7 games with the Sharks that year, collecting 2 assists, but played most of the year with the Sharks IHL affiliate, scoring 17 goals and 44 points in 62 games.

A long shot to make the NHL, Otevřel was returned to the IHL for more seasoning in 1993-94. Despite his size he was playing relatively soft for the North American game and the Sharks felt he just wasn't ready for the NHL yet. Otevřel played in another 62 games for Kansas City, scoring 20 goals and 53 points this go around. The Sharks gave Otevřel a nice Christmas gift though. They recalled the left winger exactly one week before Christmas and kept him around until mid-January. In the process Otevřel played in 9 games and did his best to make a name for himself - scoring 3 goals and 2 assists.

The Sharks continued to swim in the lowest depths of the NHL waters (in other words: they sucked) and they were often criticized for taking too many Europeans who just weren't panning out. The Sharks' philosophy changed a bit in the summer of 1994 as they started taking more North Americans in the draft.

To make room for the North American prospects they had to clean out a few existing prospects. One of those players was Otevřel. It is unclear if the Sharks offered Otevřel a contract, but if they did it wasn't as intriguing as an offer made by Ässät Pori of the Finnish League. Otevřel jumped at the opportunity to return to Europe.

Otevřel played 2 seasons with Assat Pori before a shocking incident happened in 1996. A seemingly harmless collision left Otevřel in a crumpled heap on the ice. As it turned out Otevřel had badly injured his neck resulting in paralysis below the waist. Needless to say his career was over, but more important Jaroslav Otevřel's life changed dramatically.

Click here to see more stories about hockey players from the Czech Republic and other countries, courtesy Greatest Hockey Legends.

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