Thursday, March 22, 2012
Jan Caloun was an offensive talent from Czechoslovakia who first made a name for himself at the European Junior Championships in 1990 with 7 points in 6 games. He then graduated from the HC Litvinov junior team to the senior club, which participated in the Czech Extraliga.
As a 19 year old, Caloun he impressed with 28 goals and 47 points in 50 games. The next season he was limited to 37 games, but averaged a point per game with 32 goals and 37 assists. During the postseason, he contributed 13 points in 9 games. He was also a member of the Czechoslovakia National Team at the 1992 World Junior Tournament where he scored 8 of the Czech's 28 goals in 7 games to lead the tournament in goals.
Following the season, Caloun was selected 75th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft.
He remained with HC Litvinov for two more seasons, scoring 44 goals and 67 points in 47 games in 1992-93 to lead the team in scoring and the league in goals at the age of 21. He also made his debut at the World Championships that year, earning a bronze medal playing for the newly formed Czech Republic, which had separated itself from Slovakia on January 1st of 1993.
After one final season with Litvinov, still averaging more than a point per game with 42 in 38 games, Caloun came to North America and was assigned to the Kansas City Blades of the IHL. There he picked right up where he left off in Europe, scoring 34 goals and 39 assists for 73 points in 76 games to lead the Blades in scoring as a rookie.
Bizarrely, despite finishing 16th out of 17 IHL clubs, the Blades qualified for the playoffs with 76 points, 44 points behind the league leading Denver Grizzlies, with only the Indianapolis Ice with 72 points failing to qualify for the postseason.
The Blades opened the playoffs against the 4th place Detroit Vipers and stunned them with a 4-3 win in Detroit during the decisive Game 5 of their opening round series. Next up for the Blades was the 3rd place Peoria Rivermen, whom they dispatched in 5 games.
The 4th place Kalamazoo Wings were up next, and once more the feisty Blades eliminated a club who finished much higher than them in the standings, this time with an easy 7-3 win in Game 7 on the road once more to advance to the Turner Cup Finals where their Cinderella run finally came to and end to the 1st place Denver Grizzlies. During their 21 playoff games, Caloun came second in team scoring with 13 goals and 23 points.
He returned to Kansas City for another season in 1995-96 and topped his goal total from the year before, with 38 goals in 15 less games, as Caloun was called up by the Sharks on March 18th for their game against the Boston Bruins. It was a memorable debut for Caloun that evening, as he scored on his first shot on goal in the NHL with an important goal, on the power play no less. The goal was the Sharks second of the game after spotting the Bruins a 3-0 lead before coming back to eventually tie the game 3-3.
Two nights later the dream start to Caloun's career continued when he scored his second NHL goal at 2:11 of the second period in his first shot of the game to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead over the Winnipeg Jets. At exactly the same 2:11 mark of the third period, Caloun remarkably scored on his next shot of the game, giving him 3 goals on 3 shots since being called up. The Sharks eventually won the game 7-1 over the Jets.
The Sharks next game came on this date in 1996 versus the Calgary Flames on the road. After the Flames scored first, Caloun's remarkable start continued, when the NHL rookie scored 7:23 remaining in the third period on a one-timer to tie the game on Caloun's first shot of the game, giving him an incredible 4 goals on the first 4 shots of his NHL career! The streak would later end, as his second shot on goal of the game was saved by Calgary's Rick Tabaracci. The Sharks eventually won the game in overtime thanks to Caloun's equalizer.
Caloun would eventually score a noteworthy 8 goals in 11 games for the Sharks that season. Despite that initial promise, Caloun was assigned to the Kentucky Thorougblades of the AHL for 1996-97 and led the club with 86 points in 66 games, 26 more than his next closest teammate. Caloun was also called up for a pair of games with the Sharks that season but could not duplicate his amazing offensive production of the year prior.
With the handwriting on the wall concerning his future with the Sharks, Caloun signed to play with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish SM-Liiga for 1997-98 where he led the club in scoring with 48 points, good for third overall in the league. He would go on to lead the league in playoff scoring with 17 points in nine games as HIFK captured the league playoff championship.
In February, Caloun was a member of the Czech Republic Olympic Team which captured the gold medal in Nagano, Japan, the first Olympics which featured NHL players.
Caloun, simply tore up the SM-Liiga following season, amassing 81 points in just 51 games to lead the league in scoring by a full 23 points over his next closest challenger. He repeated as the top scorer in the playoffs as HIFK again returned to the finals.
Following the Finnish season, Caloun participated in his second World Championships and contributed 4 goals in 6 games as the Czechs captured the gold medal as tournament champions.
In 1999-00 Caloun led HIFK in scoring for the third consecutive season. His 72 points in 44 games placed him second in the league scoring race.
He returned to North America at the start of 2000-01, where he joined the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets of the newly expanded NHL, which created roughly 50 new jobs for players with the addition of Columbus and Minnesota. In 11 games, Caloun scored three assists before securing his release, which allowed him to rejoin HIFK in time to play 24 games that season.
For 2001-02, he joined the Espoo Blues for the next three seasons, leading the Blues in scoring all three seasons and the entire league in 2002-03 for his second SM-Liiga scoring title.
His 2004-05 season was an unsettled one, as he competed for four different clubs, Severstal Cherepovets (5 games) and Sibir Nobosibirsk (1 game) of the Russian Hockey League and a return to familiar territory with HC Litvinov (24 games and 39 points) and Slovan HC of the Czech second division for a pair of games. His next home was HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. In 2005-06 he led Pardubice in scoring with 39 points in 48 games.
After one more season with Pardubice he rejoined Slovan HC for the next two seasons, the first of which was in the Extraliga and the second one down in the second level after being relegated.
For 2009-10, Caloun remained in the Czech second division with HC Vrchlabi and scored 13 goals and 27 points before he retired as a player after 19 seasons, 940 games, 515 goals and 499 assists for 1,014 points at all levels combined.
Today's featured jersey is a 1992 Czechoslovakia National Team Jan Caloun jersey from the final year of participation by Czechoslovakia in international hockey prior to dividing into the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the start of 1993.
This jersey is made by Tackla and features the familiar Tackla diamond shapes on the shoulders. Tackla a made jerseys for the member clubs of the IIHF in international tournaments from 1988 through 1995, although the final two years they were branded with large Reebok logos on the shoulders.
Today's video section begins with Caloun's return to HIFK after leaving the Blue Jackets and returning to Finland.
This next interview with Caloun, a Czech being interviewed by a Finn, is conducted conveniently in English.