Thursday, May 5, 2011
Born on this date in Czechoslovakia in 1972, Zigmund "Ziggy" Palffy came of age at the ideal time, just after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
After a season in the Czechoslovakian Extraliga with HK Nitra, scoring 34 goals and 50 points in 50 games and earning a bronze medal in the 1991 World Junior Championships, scoring 7 goals and 13 points in 7 games, Palffy was drafted in the second round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.
Palffy as a member of the Czechoslovakia National Team
He remained in Czechoslovakia for two more seasons with Dukla Trencin, leading the club in points in 1991-92 with 47 points and adding another 26 points with an amazing 18 goals and 26 points in just 13 playoff games to lead Trencin to the league championship, their first championship since their founding in thirty years of trying. If that were not enough, the following season Palffy not only led Trencin in scoring with 38 goals and 79 points just 43 games, but won the league scoring championship in the process.
Now clearly ready to make the move to North America after dominating his domestic league, Palffy began his path to the NHL with a season with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the IHL in 1993-94, where he averaged exactly a point per game with 57 points in 57 games. He also made his NHL debut with the Islanders, seeing action in five games, but failed to impress by being held pointless. He did have a better showing at the 1994 Olympics, skating for the now independent nation of Slovakia following the breakup of Czechoslovakia at the start of 1993.
Palffy began the 1994-95 season with 33 games as a member of the Denver Grizzlies of the IHL, and after putting up 43 points in 33 games, he was recalled by the Islanders after the season began late due to the labor issues which delayed the start of the season. He would play in 33 games which included his first NHL points, finishing with 10 goals and 17 points.
Palffy hit his stride in 1995-96, which included a change in jersey number from 68 to 16, when he led the Islanders in scoring with 87 points and his first 40 goal season with 43. Following the season, as the lowly Islanders failed to make the playoffs, Palffy competed for Slovakia at the 1996 World Championships.
Palffy in the controversial "fishsticks" jersey. Note the italicized assistant captain's "A" used in the second half of the 1996-97 season.
Prior to the start of the following NHL season, Palffy once again skated for Slovakia in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. The next season saw more of the same as Palffy reached 48 goals and 90 points to once more lead the Islanders in scoring as well as making his first NHL All-Star Game appearance. His final season on Long Island saw him limited to just 50 games, during which he scored 50 points. Following the season, the sixth in a row during which the once great Islanders would miss the playoffs, Palffy was again free to compete at the World Championships for Slovakia.
In a move that was unpopular with the already disgruntled Islanders fans, Palffy was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. His first three seasons with the Kings saw Palffy continue at a point per game average, including nearly equalling his career high, falling just one point short in 2000-01 with 89.
The 2001-02 season was particularly busy for Palffy, as he played in 63 games for the Kings, made a single appearance for Slovakia in the 2002 Olympics, although too little too late to help Slovakia escape the Preliminary Round due to a scheduling flaw that forced Slovakia to compete without the vast majority of it's NHL players for most of the round, and was a contributor to Slovakia's greatest hockey moment when they rebounded a few months later when they captured the gold medal at the 2002 World Championships after the Kings were eliminated in seven games in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Palffy assisted on Peter Bondra's gold medal clinching goal with less than two minutes remaining in the championship final.
Palffy celebrates Slovakia's gold medal in 2002
Another strong season in 2002-03 with the Kings saw him total 85 points as well as having a strong World Championships with 15 points in 9 games.
During the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Palffy split his time between HK 36 Skalica in Slovakia and HC Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic as well as making yet another appearance at the World Championships. For the 2005-06 season, Palffy signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but retired unexpectedly halfway through the season due to a shoulder injury.
To the surprise of many, Palffy returned to active play after sitting out the rest of the 2005-06 season and all of the 2006-07 season when he rejoined HK 36 Skalica.
Now once more in top form after his year and a half away from the game, Palffy scored 75 points in 46 games in 2007-08 and added 24 more in 13 playoff games to lead Skalica to an appearance in the championship finals.
He raised his game once more in 2008-09, leading the league in goals with 52, 21 more than his next closest competitor! With his 47 assists added on, his 99 points in 53 games easily gave him the league scoring title.
One final season with HK Skalica had Palffy in top form with 53 points, although his was limited to 36 games. He also made his first appearance for the Slovakia National Team in five years when he participated in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
His final NHL totals were 329 goals and 713 points in 684 games. Internationally, he played in 18 games for Czechoslovakia and later 49 games for Slovakia, scoring a combined 86 points during two World Juniors and a Canada Cup for the Czechs and five World Championships, a World Cup and three Olympics for the Slovaks.
Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 New York Islander Ziggy Palffy jersey. This style jersey was first introduced in 1995-96 with the notorious and much ridiculed "fisherman" logo. The Islanders were in a state of turmoil at the time, having had a steep decline in competitiveness and several controversial personnel moves.
The Islanders "fisherman" logo
The fisherman jersey had the unfortunate double whammy against it, of not only replacing the jersey worn during the team's Stanley Cup dynasty, but arriving during a period of fan discontent with ownership and management, which led to the jersey and logo becoming the lightning rod for all of the fans anger and frustration.
During the 1996-97 season, the wave style jersey was paired with the classic Islanders logo as a hastily created "alternate" jersey in an effort to undo some of the damage done by the "fishsticks" jersey, as New York Ranger fans chanted at the Islanders while wearing the fisherman logo jerseys.
1997-98 saw the fisherman logo dropped completely and the club wear today's featured jersey full time for this jersey's final season prior to changing to a somewhat modernized version of their classic jerseys for 1998-99.
The "fisherman" jersey was worn with three distinctive fonts used for the assistant captain's "A", with the version on today's featured jersey being used for the 1997-98 season only.
Of note, the Slovakian flag on the chest of this jersey was applied just for the NHL SuperSkills Competition held at the 1998 NHL All-Star Game to promote the new World vs. North America format for that years NHL All-Star Game in advance of the first participation by NHL players at the upcoming 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
For more on the story of the "fishsticks" jersey, please see this post about it's creation and the controversial reception it received.
Our first video today shows Palffy wearing the original Islanders jersey as well as his original number 68.
Next is a collection of Palffy highlights while a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
Next, Palffy scores his 50th goal of the season to set a new Slovak Extraliga record in 2008-09.
Finally, Palffy scores just 12 seconds into the start of the first game of the 2008-09 Slovakian championship finals, only no one saw it because they were reading all the ads painted on the ice.