Vladimir Ruzicka

Vladimir Ruzicka started his career when he was just 16 years old, joining CHZ Litvinov of the Czechoslovak League in 1979. He played ther for 9 years plus 2 more with Dukla Tencin. He would represent his country on the international stage many times. His international resume includes the 1984 (earning a silver medal) and 1988 Olympics, the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups and 5 World championships (earning gold in 1985, silver in 1983 and bronze in 1987 and 1989). He left for the NHL in 1989 but returned by 1994 and helped the Czech Republic win the gold medal in the 1998 Olympics.

Originally drafted by Toronto way back in 1982, the Leafs had little interest in big Vlad and traded to Edmonton who secured his release. It was big news at the time. Ruzicka was just 26, and considered to be the best player in all of Czechoslovakia, a traditional hockey power.  Twice named the Czech hockey player of the year (1986 and 1988), he came to Edmonton and immediately placed at center ice between Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen - Wayne Gretzky's old spot.

"Rosie" as he became known, was a dangerous offensive weapon who possessed many of the same tricks later displayed by Jaromir Jagr. However, he was a pathetic defensive player. He might have been able to get away with his poor attention to defense back home, but not in the NHL.

Ruzicka joined the Edmonton Oilers part way through the 1989-90 season and scored 11 goals and 17 points in 25 games. However by the playoffs Ruzicka was sitting in the pressbox. In his 25 games he was a -21, despite putting up 17 points. Though he had offensive potential, he was far too great of a defensive liability and the Oilers benched him en route to the team's 5th championship in 7 years.

Ruzicka was acquired by the Bruins in a trade on October 22, 1990. He eventually became a fan favorite in Boston because of his dazzling skills.

During his first season with Boston he suffered a severe ankle injury which sidelined him for much of the season. He returned from his injury during the playoffs and helped the Bruins in their playoff drive with 2 goals and 11.

The next season Rosie played an important role for the Bruins, who were missing leading goal scorer Cam Neely for most of the year through injury. Rosie led the Bruins with 39 goals. Despite his offensive contributions, he remained down right brutal without the puck. However the injury riddle Bruins had to overlook his shortcomings and play him a lot because he was their only offensive threat most nights that season.

Not surprisingly Rosie quickly found himself in new coach Brian Sutter's doghouse in 1992-93. Sutter was an easy coach to play for as long as you gave it your all every shift at both ends of the ice. Needless to say, Ruzicka's days were numbered with Sutter at the helm.

Following that season, Rosie left the Bruins as a free agent and signed with the expansion Ottawa Senators, but he only played in 42 games and scored only 5 goals and 18 points. Coach Rick Bowness blew up at him in practice, and his career in the NHL was over.

Due to Ruzicka's unwillingness/inability to play well defensively and lack of consistent effort, his NHL career was less than noteworthy. Still, domestically he is forever remembered as a spectacular and fun player to watch. Twice, in 1986 and 1988, he was named as the best player in the entire country, back in an era when most of the best players were still back home.

Noted European hockey historian Patrick Houda said this of Ruzicka: 

"His skills though placed him among the world's best ever. A hockey genius, perhaps the only players more dangerous in a one-on-one situation in modern times were Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr."

Now that is high praise!

For a player not noted for a complete game, it was surprising to see him go on to become the Czech Republic's national team coach. He guided the nation to two World Championships in the time, as well as at the 2010 Olympics.


Roman Prekop,  2:10 PM  

When he joined Dukla Trencin, he was undisputably the best player in Czechoslovakia. He captained the national team. He sparked the city and the history was born (Pallfy, Demitra, Svehla, Beranek, Holan, Hossa, Chara, Gaborik etc.). We loved him although he would return to the defense zone at all. One moment I remember was particularly disctractive (not sure if I can prove it, I hope there would be people to corroborate my recollection) - Trencin played in 4, but he would not return to the defensive zone to help; what more, he would stand in an off-side position waiting for the puck. Anyways, when my son asks whom I consider the best player of all times, I always say Ruzicka.

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