Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Frantisek Kucera: Gone from my (hockey) life forever!

I have some sad news to report today, although most of you would find it strange that it would be so.

Frantisek “Frank” Kucera, 36, who had been playing for Slavia Praha, announced his retirement today from playing hockey.

I’m not sure why it is so, but Kucera has always been one of my favourite defensemen.

Maybe it’s because he resembles WWF/WWE wrestler The Undertaker, who was also one of my favourite wrestlers growing up. This ‘connection’ came to me when I was at a Canucks game (sitting in the 2nd row, the one and only time I’ve ever had such tickets to an NHL game) and Kucera had just joined the team.

Any time I played a game of EA’s NHL series, I generally paired myself with either Kucera or Jiri Slegr when I was a defenseman.

Some background:
Kucera was drafted in 1986 by the Blackhawks in the 4th round. After playing a few years with his hometown Sparta Prague (Kucera is one of the few Prague-born players to ever do well in the NHL), Kucera came over to the NHL in 1990 as the Iron Curtain fell in Europe. Kucera played 4 seasons for the Hawks before stints with the Whalers and Canucks.

In 1996-97, Kucera had his roughest year when he spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. He was dealt to the Flyers and played 2 games with them to finish the season.

Before he headed back to Europe, the last memory he left burnt in my brain was when he deflected a puck into his own net during his short stint with the Flyers. Not a great way to end (at the time) an NHL career.

Kucera went back for 3 seasons to play with (evil) Sparta Prague. Kucera led them to a championship and he came back into my life when he was with the golden Nagano Olympic team in 1998. Seeing him with ex-NHL Vladimir Ruzicka and non NHLers like Jiri Dopita was just really strange at the time.

When the NHL expanded (again), Kucera found work with the Columbus Blue Jackets and returned to the NHL. He played 2 more seasons and also played with the Penguins and Capitals, and was also a throw-in to the Jagr/Capitals deal.

Speaking of Jagr, here are some funny quotes from a translated article. This is in regards to him ‘accidentally’ hitting Kucera and injuring him during a game.

Reporter: Washington is chasing the Stanley Cup [play-offs], yet you injured your countryman and a teammate Frantisek Kucera during the last game. He played very well until that point, but then he wasn’t able to finish that match because of you. Wasn’t that sabotage?

Jagr: Well, I did erase him. He fell like [a sack of cement]. He criticized me, so I destroyed him. {laughter}

Reporter: How did that happen. Didn’t you see him?

Jagr: I saw him, but it’s my territory in front of the net. I have no idea what Franta was doing in that place. I’d guess this would be his last trip over there. {laughter}

Reporter: He then apparently tried to get on his knees, but fell back on the ice…

Jagr: I’m sorry, but I really had to laugh when I saw that. He will be OK, though. He practiced on Thursday. It’s just his shoulder that hurts, and he doesn’t feel his hand.

Reporter: Well, it is actually somewhat humorous. You have like ten hits during the whole season, and then you go and injure your teammate…

Jagr: Hey! I got nineteen [hits]. I have to add a few more, though, because another of my teammates Ulf Dahlen is closing on me. And Franta claimed that he has never been smashed like that during his whole career. I appreciate that.

Who needs friends like that when you have enemies? :)

Kucera returned to Czechia in 2002 and played with Slavia Prague, Sparta hated rivals. Kucera also helped Slavia win their first ever championship, although he was injured for the final series.

In the end, Kucera’s injuries limited him to just 11 regular season games last year and he had enough of the aches and pains and called it quits after 8 games this season. I’ll miss him.

Kucera’s final tallies:

NHL: 465GP 24-95-119 251PIM
CZECHIA: 445GP 60-107-167

Olympic Gold (1998)
World Championships Gold (1999, 2000)

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