Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ambitious Project

A Czech hockey fan in the United States is working on the ambitious project of trying to document as many players as possible who defected from Communist Czechoslovakia to North America between 1948 and 1989. To make this task even more daunting, he is not including NHL or WHA players "not because I'm not interested but because their stories are generally pretty well documented."

Personally, I've never heard of most of the players on the list and certainly can't help add to it, but perhaps some readers could help. If you read more of Greg D'Avis' blog, The Post-Pessimist Association, you will find he is working on other projects related to Czech hockey as well, including information on the post-playing careers and current status of several players.

Here is the list of players he has compiled so far:

Jiří Bastl -- Fringe player for Sparta Praha and Kladno in the 1960s. Defected late that decade, apparently to West Germany at first (though details are sketchy). Made his way to North America where he attended a Blackhawks training camp and played in the IHL, then went back to Germany. Coached for a while. Now lives in Switzerland, and is (I think, again) the father of tennis player George Bastl.

Kristián Cee -- Sparta defenseman of the 1940s and 1950s. Became a doctor during his playing days. Post-career, traveled to Western Europe through Yugoslavia in 1966, settling in West Germany. Returned to the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism, and died last year.

Jaroslav Drobný -- Now here's a guy worth looking into: a forward for I. ČLTK Praha, he was also a tennis star and defected at a 1949 tournament. He got Egyptian (sure, why not?) citizenship, won the 1954 Wimbledon men's singles tournament, and eventually settled in Britain. He died there in 2001.

Jiří Hanzl -- uncertain on this one, but I think that post-career, the Sparta goalie defected to West Germany. He definitely ended up coaching there for a while.

Petr Hejma -- 1968 Olympian, forward for Sparta Praha. Defected to West Germany following a Sparta exhibition match in September 1968. Played many years for Düsseldorf and Krefeld, still lives in Germany.

Zdeněk Hlásek -- Sparta forward during the 1950s. Not sure of the date but defected in the 1960s. Still lives in Switzerland, and like Bastl his son ended up a professional tennis player.

Jiří Kren -- Sparta forward, defected during the 1963 Spengler Cup. Played in the Canadian minor leagues for a season then back to Germany and Switzerland. I exchanged letters with him a few years ago; he was making wine in northern Italy, which does not sound half bad.

Oldřich Kučera -- 1936 Olympian, longtime LTC Praha forward. Post-career details are scant, but by 1949 he was coaching in Switzerland, and reportedly eventually ended up in Australia.

Viktor Lonsmín -- covered at length here.

Martin Maglay -- 1970s junior goalie, fled along with or around the same time as Jiří Crha. Ended up in the Maple Leafs system but it's unclear if he ever played; he was beaten up during a mugging and that effectively ended his career. Runs hockey school programs in Ontario.

Zdeněk Marek -- forward for ATK Praha and Sparta, defected at 1949 World Championships. Played at least one season for the University of North Dakota; I don't know if he played any organized hockey after that. Lived in New York for a long time. Reportedly passed away in 2009, though that's strangely hard to confirm.

Stanislav Nepomucký -- Sparta defenseman in the 1950s. Defected during an exhibition tour in 1958. Played at least one season for HIJS Den Haag in the Netherlands; eventually ended up in the United States and changed his last name to "Nielsen." Passed away in 2006.

Jiří Petrnoušek -- Sparta youngster, defected to the Netherlands in 1968 at age 21. Played for Tilburg for a very long time and represented the Dutch in the 1980 Olympics. Think he still lives there.

Jiří Pokorný -- defected late 1960s, date unclear, not clear if he was currently active when it happened. Wound up as player-coach for Tilburg in Netherlands in 1969-70, then coached in Netherlands and West Germany through the 1970s. I'm still looking for more information on him, by the way.

Miloslav Pospíšil -- Forward for ATK Praha, Tatra Smichov, and Sparta. Wound down his career in the early 1960s, fled to Austria in 1968. Eventually wound up in North America, and lived in New York until his death in 2000.

Rudolf Šindelář -- Sparta forward from the late '50s through the '70s. Escaped to Austria (I think) at some point post-career. Now lives back in the Czech Republic.

Miroslav Sláma -- Fellow I don't know much about -- I. ČLTK Praha defenseman, 1948 Olympian. According to notes on the Society for International Hockey Research website, he defected during the 1948 Spengler Cup tournament and spent several years playing and coaching in Switzerland. Ended up in the U.S., died in California in 2008.

Zdeněk Tikal -- Brother of Czech legend František. Not sure what level Zdeněk played at in Czechoslovakia -- I haven't turned up any records with major teams. Went to Australia with his father in 1948, played on the Australian national team in the 1960 Olympics. Died in 1991.

Jaroslav Tůma -- Like Petrnoušek, another Sparta youngster, may have defected at the same time. Ended up with Tilburg (along with Petrnoušek and Pokorný), where he put up frankly ridiculous numbers. Went to West Germany after a few years and still did well; eventually wound up in Switzerland, I think.

Ivo Veselý -- Like Zdeněk Tikal, I know nothing about his Czechoslovak career -- like ZT, went to Australia and ended up on the 1960 team. Died 2002.

Oldřich Zabrodský -- Brother of Vladimír (see below). Forward for LTC Praha, fled to Switzerland in 1948, where he played for Davos and Lausanne for a few years. Lived in Belgium last I knew.

Vladimír Zábrodský -- Legendary forward for LTC Praha and Sparta, subject of much controversy. Escaped to Sweden at some point. Still lives there.

Greg D'Avis can be followed on Twitter @gsdgsd.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Derek. (And thanks to anyone else who can help!)