Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Zdeno Ciger: Good Riddance or Goodbye?

Zdeno Ciger, quite surprisingly, announced his retirement today at the age of 34. Although Ciger was a national team mainstay for many years (and former Captain), his retirement was met with as much celebration as it was with sadness. Is Ciger the Slovakian version of Tom Barrasso? That almost fits the bill.

Given Ciger�s penchant for unexpected career moves, maybe this isn�t such a big surprise?

Ciger is not a well known name to most NHL fans, but I�m sure Oilers and Devils fans remember the quiet, enigmatic winger who had great skills, but whose head and heart wasn�t always in the game. Most of the GM�s in fantasy leagues I was in were asking me about him, as if he was some kind of Slovakian hockey god :)

�When is he coming back to the NHL?�
�Why did he leave in the first place? He was so good!�
�Would you trade me your 1st round pick and your left arm for him?�

C�ger was drafted in the 3rd round (54th overall) of the 1988 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils after being named Czechoslovak rookie of the year. He came over in 1990 and split the season between Utica and New Jersey.
After spending two-and-a-half seasons floating between the AHL and NHL, struggling to learn the language and adapt to the lifestyle changes, Ciger was dealt to the Oilers in 1993 for Bernie Nicholls.

It was with the Oilers that Ciger could finally get a chance to show off his offensive skills, and he flourished in his 4 seasons with the Oilers. Of course, he missed most of 94-95 in a contract dispute, so it was more like 3 seasons.
In 95-96, Ciger was an offensive force on a poor Oilers team (This was the darkest year before they started getting better), and he finished with 70 points in 79 games. He was a restricted free agent and was offered over $1mil/season by the Oilers (At that time, his offer was pretty good).

Yet, he left that all behind and suddenly returned to Slovakia to play with Slovan Bratislava. He didn�t give any rhyme or reason, he didn�t try to negotiate for more money�he just simply went home and played for about US$150,000 a year in front of crowds one-fifth the size of those in Edmonton.


Some writers in Slovakia speculated that it was his wife, who was unable to get nursing credentials in Canada, which was the main reason for Ciger�s return home. Others speculated that the Oilers� offer was of the lowball variety, although Ciger never really attempted to negotiate in the first place.

In a 2001 interview with the Slovak Specatator, Ciger gave a brief glimpse into his mindset for returning home.

Regarding $$$:. "I wanted to try playing in the NHL, but I never intended to stay forever. There are more important things in life than money."

Regarding his wife: "That's all media bullshit! She (his wife) was at home with the children then, and anyway I came back for a whole complex of reasons, including being near my parents."

Ciger and his wife divorced in 2000, which led to speculation that Ciger was �free� to return to the NHL. There were plenty of teams interested in Ciger�s services, including the Minnesota Wild, who had success with another older Slovak player (Sekeras).

Certainly, Ciger�s celebrity status in Slovakia was taking a beating after a few years. For one thing, Ciger has always been very outspoken, often in a �whiny� matter. Ciger was openly complaining about the state of Slovak hockey (which does need some fixing), his spot on the National team, his telephone bill, and so on.
Ciger also whined a lot to the referees during games. After spending years in North America, where the officiating is clearly superior, Ciger was getting mugged and hacked at will and didn�t take kindly to it. There were many instances of Ciger throwing sticks and gloves at referees, including one in this year�s playoffs, where Ciger attacked referee Jakubec. (Which is strange, given that Ciger and Jakubec are childhood friends). Many fans thought Ciger was more of a whiny Hollywood type in comparison to his teammates.

Many fans, already resentful of the large financial advantage that Bratislava has on the other Slovak teams, weren�t too thrilled with the fact that Ciger made so much more than the typical Slovakian player. Ciger was certainly worth his contract, but many Slovaks, living with puny wages in comparison, saw Ciger as the whiny highly-paid superstar on the league�s richest team.

Perhaps this led to Ciger finally making his long-awaited return to the NHL in 2001 with the New York Rangers. After 5 years in Slovakia, Ciger had finally been lured away from home, but his return didn�t go too well.

After 29 games with the Rangers, Ciger clearly wasn�t fitting in with the team (Given how many overpaid whiners the Rangers have, I found this rather odd). Ciger�s game had eroded after years against weaker competition, his defensive coverage was incredibly poor, and he was dealt to the Lightning for Matthew Barnaby. Ciger finished the season with just 25 points in 56 games, and that was the end of his NHL career. Once again, Ciger gave up and went home.

Overall, Ciger finished with 228 points in NHL 352 games. Solid numbers for a good 2nd-tier player.

After his return to Slovakia in 2002, Ciger also found himself no longer part of the senior national team. Ciger�s skills clearly didn�t match up with the best in the world, and his attitude wasn�t appreciated by his younger peers. It didn�t help his cause that he was always wavering in his commitment to join the squad.
At the very least, Ciger was a force again in the Slovak Extraleague, and he finished this past season with 60 points in 51 games.

This sudden retirement clearly fits the trend of his career. If there is one constant in Ciger�s hockey career, it�s been that he has never seemed happy playing the game. Despite the lucrative offers from the NHL, Ciger played for far less at home. Even then, Ciger never seemed to enjoy himself much on the ice.

Thus, it�s easy to see why many fans in Slovakia are shouting �HURA!� at the announcement of his retirement. It�s hard to like a player that whines a lot and doesn�t seem to enjoy playing the game. There are many people that would donate both kidneys for the opportunities and natural skills that Ciger has, and it�s a shame that Ciger could never appreciate the fortune that his career brought to him.

1990-91 New-Jersey Devils 45 8 17 25 8
1991-92 New-Jersey Devils 20 6 5 11 10
1992-93 New-Jersey Devils 27 4 8 12 2
1992-93 Edmonton Oilers 37 9 15 24 6
1993-94 Edmonton Oilers 84 22 35 57 8
1994-95 Edmonton Oilers 5 2 2 4 0
1995-96 Edmonton Oilers 78 31 39 70 41
2001-02 New-York Rangers 29 6 7 13 16
2001-02 Tampa-Bay Lightning 27 6 6 12 10

Thus, it�s easy to see why many fans in Slovakia are shouting �HURA!� at the announcement of his retirement. It�s hard to like a player that whines a lot and doesn�t seem to enjoy playing the game. There are many people that would donate both kidneys for the opportunities and natural skills that Ciger has, and it�s a shame that Ciger could never appreciate the fortune that his career brought to him.

seems to me that this fan attitude happens alot int he north american game, yet is often scorned by you, Jes.

We DO require defense out of everyone. In several cases event he greatest player to ever live in the sport is derided because he wasn't great at everything like checking and defense.

so which is it? do fans properly suss out the players who don't look like they enjoy the game, who don't seem committted to the local fans, and whom don't play in all zones and heap scorn upon their brows, or are we supposed to meakly accept whatever is sent to us. especially if id crossed an ocean to get here?

sasha is ciger without the skill, yet it seems we have no right in your eyes to recognize that fact, much less comment on it, or buy jerseys with outhis name for that reason.


must be a hasek thing :0)
Well Head Trauma, there is a big difference between a Ciger and a Khavanov.

Guys like Pavel Bure may float on defense, but they still love the game.

Bure trains like a demon off of the ice (to rehab from his various injuries and keep that 6-pack) and he clearly enjoys playing the game.

Khavvy may be a bit soft on the defensive end, but do you remember when he scored his first NHL goal? He was clearly happy to be there.

Ciger, on the other hand, was a pretty good defensive player and regular PKer for most of his career...he just didn't seem to enjoy playing hockey at all.
If he did enjoy himself more, and worked harder off of the ice, he could have been a star in his own right.
yowzer. khavvy is "soft on d" AND HE IS A DEFENSEMAN. his offensive 'contributions' are not high enough to over come his failing in his listed position as they were with d like coffey and duschene. he doesnt appear to work hard during games, and absolutely avoids giving or getting a check. and if he does any off seaon work it certianly isnt to improve his strength in the corners, his skating, his positional play, or anythign of value to the fans who ultimately pay him. and if he is occasionally happy when he scores untouched, he isn't happy most of his games.

so yea a hura will go out for sasha. and you have yet to give any reason why it shouldnt. you have, however, suggested we are all biggotted idiots for having that hura ready in advance. are the ciger haters biggoted idiots?

which is worse, skill not cashed in for money in the way some fans want it? [ciger]

or lack of skill cashed in for money in the way some fans don't want it? [sasha]

sasha scored an even strenght goal once every 19 games. that is worse than backman, pronger, macinnis and jackman

let me repeat worse that a rookie with little idea of the north american game, a physical sophmore who spent his sophmore year on the dl, a two way d-man in pronger, and the chopper make sasha the 5th best OFFENSIVE d-man suited most nights

and his stunning pace is only a few games better than weinrich (23) and "no offense" Salvadore (28)

reapeatING that. he will average less than a goal a YEAR better than eric, and 2 goals better than a d-man not allowed to leave his own end in salvy.

oh, and repeating the thing we all know. sasha also can't play d. unlike the other blues d-men

but somehow i'm supposed to embrace his *ahem* talent?

Here's a little insight to the comparison you had made... Tom Barrasso was not very well liked here in Pittsburgh despite some popularity with other fans. He has really been difficult to work with the media. He never spoke to them or rarely did. Now that he's done, a lot of things have come out saying he didn't want to help develop JS Aubin or Hedberg. However, Pittsburghers are loyal and the Penguins never forget their own. Barrasso was allowed to retire a Penguin. (albeit washed up) That kind of says it all. He was such a headache, yet given so much popularity from some fans and loyalty from the organization.

Will people say that about Ciger?
1. Whoever told you that Alex Khavanov was the next Paul Coffey was either smoking BC Bud, or was trying to pull the wool over your eyes. He was never a big offensive cog in Russia, and he wasn't going to be one here. Sure, I expected a bit more in that regard...

Now, if Khavvy was unhappy, why would he resign with the Blues?

Ciger is a much different animal...he just plain whines about anything and thinks the world is out to get him.
Talking about a defensively soft player is different than talking about someone who is just a big a$$hole.

Khavvy might not be your ideal defenseman, but he is not a malcontent and he doesn't go around pouting or laying on the hate.

2. Ciger will likely be seen in Bratislava much as Barasso was seen in Pittsburgh... a guy that gave a lot to his team, but not a guy you could really like all that much. You were glad for their contributions, but if they weren't good players, you'd want them tossed in the garbage.
no, not coffee but you keep saying he is a good offensive d-man. he is a MEDIOCRE offensive d-man. and a mediocre power play point man. and NOTHING else.

he is a seriously below average nhl d-man who makes 2 million a year to play 4th d-man ice time and get booed in the process

nice gig if you can get it.

would ciger play under those circumstances?

so again the question is: why are we all supposed to love a load of overpriced junk in sasha just becuase he takes our money? yet ciger it is alright to be glad he is gone?
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