Sunday, November 27, 2011

Know Your Hockey History Redux

In connection with a long-term project I'm working on -- a (very partial) list of hockey players who fled Czechoslovakia during the Communist era. No NHLers or WHAers here, not because I'm not interested but because their stories are generally pretty well documented.

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.

This is far from a complete list -- look for updates at some point.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Clearing the Pipes

One thing about this book diary: once it backs up a bit, it keeps me from posting anything else. Let's rectify that and quickly.

#36 -- "Zone One" by Colson Whitehead

I'm way over zombies, so it's a testament to Whitehead's power that I was able to get past that for this. Very good, not his best, but very good. Subtle, too -- weeks later I'm still picking up on things.

#37 -- "The Origins of the Second World War" by A.J.P. Taylor

Post-Wallace I'm on a history kick, and I've been wanting to reread Taylor's "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe," which I last read in college. Feeling like I should read something new-to-me first, I got this and "Bismarck." This isn't anything really new to me, but it's very well presented, and it's instructive and helpful to read a history that looks at everything rather dispassionately -- i.e. did the characters involved act rationally. Britain comes off looking awful, France almost as bad.

#38 -- "Tito" by Neil Barnett

This is part of a series of popular biographies, so maybe my hopes were a bit high. As far as here's how Tito's life went, here's what he did, here's what resulted, it's fine. It doesn't delve much deeper than that, though. (Admittedly, sources beyond Tito himself are scarce for parts of his life.) I don't have any real complaints about this, but no enthusiasm, either. It gets the job done, but I'll have to wait for a real comprehensive biography of the man.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Joke

#35 -- "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace

So it took nearly two months, 15 years after it actually came out, ten years after I really should have read it, two years after Infinite Summer for chrissakes.

And it was so very worth it. Was it frustrating? Absolutely -- there were times when I'd settle in to read a chapter before bed, and instead find myself getting through two pages in 30 minutes. There were sections that I wanted to skip. There were times that I thought it'd never end.

But when I got to the end, I wanted to go back and start again. "Infinite Jest" amazed me and moved me.

A recap isn't really worthwhile -- there's so much written about the book (a lot of it really good itself!) that me trying to sum it up wouldn't accomplish much. I can say I'd recommend everyone give it a try. Early on, I told someone who asked that I wasn't sure if it was for everyone. I still don't know, but I think everyone should find that out themselves. It's worth the try.

What a fantastic book. I wish I hadn't waited until three years after Wallace's death to find out just what I'd been missing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I meant to get back to blogging this weekend. I've been all moved in for a while, things have settled down, I finished "Infinite Jest." Then ... time slipped away.

But, soon. I still intend to write some longer things for this, which unfortunately take some research time. I'd also like to write something about the experience of finally reading "IJ," because there simply isn't enough written about that book. I'd like to write something about the very strange experience of being a Denver Broncos fan this year.

But tonight? Tonight I'm tired, and I'm going to drink a Lagunitas Censored and read A.J.P. Taylor 'til I pass out. Soon, though.