Thursday, August 18, 2011

Machač remembered

Last week, I was in Břeclav, reporting on the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. While most of my attention was on the games, I also tried to keep an eye on what else was going on in the hockey world. Last Wednesday, it was reported that a Czech hockey star from the past, Oldřich Machač (pictured), passed away after a lengthy illness at age 67.

Prior to that night's game between the Czech Republic and Sweden, as fans began sitting down after the playing of the national anthems, the public address announcer began announcing, in Czech, about Machač's passing. Knowing that a moment of silence was about to follow, I returned to my feet. Some Swedish fans behind me, who couldn't understand the announcement, asked me what was happening. I told them, and they asked who it was for. My answer was simply, "A player from the Czechoslovakian national team from the '70s."

My short answer was partly because I assumed they wouldn't know who he was, but partly because, apart from his name and time period when he played, I didn't really know anything either. Of course, Czech hockey fans of a certain age have no such problem. I didn't have to speak to many before I even found some who knew him in person, and apparently he was one hell of a nice guy. I also learned that he was a bruising defenceman with a booming slapshot from the point who starred domestically for Brno and won three World Championship gold medals.

Last December, Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends wrote about an interesting piece about the crossing of paths between Machač and Bobby Orr, two great blueliners of their era, following the 1976 Canada Cup. On the ice at the Montreal Forum after the last game, which Canada won in overtime, the players on each team traded sweaters, as was the tradition in international hockey at the time. The two number 4s traded jerseys, and there is a photograph of Orr appearing in Machač's red ČSSR jersey (right).

The article goes on to explore more about Machač's career. His most notable accomplishment may be his 293 international games played for Czechoslovakia, which is second only to the great Jiří Holík.

You can read the full article here:

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