Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Defenseman Jiří Šlégr, born on this date in 1971 began his career with CHZ Litvinov in 1987-88 and eventually played five seasons with the club before coming to North America to play in 1991-92 in the wake of the fall of Communism across Europe, which gave players the freedom to leave for the first time.
Prior to coming to the NHL, Šlégr had played for Czechoslovakia on five occasions, including the European Junior Championships in 1989, winning bronze medals at the World Junior Championships in both 1990 and 1991, which would prove to be a busy year for the young Šlégr, as he would also play in the 1991 World Championships as well as the 1991 Canada Cup. During his final Czechoslovak domestic season, Šlégr would also make his Olympic debut in his final appearance for Czechoslovakia in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France where he earned a bronze medal.
Šlégr joined the Vancouver Canucks organization, who had selected him with the second pick of the second round of the 1990 NHL Draft. His first season saw him divide his time between the Hamilton Canucks of the AHL (21 games) and make his NHL debut with Vancouver, playing in 41 games, scoring an impressive 26 points in exactly half a season of play while posting a +16 rating. He would also get his first taste of the NHL playoffs, seeing action in 5 games.
Given more important minutes based on his successful rookie season, Šlégr set a career high with 38 points from 5 goals and 33 assists in 78 games.
He would spend the early part of the 1994-95 season back with Litvinov, in what was by now the Czech Republic, due to the labor stoppage delaying the start of the NHL season until January. Once the NHL resumed, play, Šlégr would play 19 games with the Canucks before being traded in early April to the Edmonton Oilers.
He was limited to 57 games with the Oilers in 1995-96 and went on to make his debut for the Czech Republic at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey prior to the start of the 1996-97 season, which Šlégr spent back in Europe, appearing in one game with Litvinov, but primarily with Sodertalje SK in Sweden. He also played for the Czech Republic at the 1997 World Championships in the spring, earning another bronze medal.
In August of that year, Šlégr was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he spent the next four seasons, including setting an NHL career best 11 goals in 1999-00.
During his first season with the Penguins, the NHL would take a break from it's schedule to allow players to compete in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, which Šlégr and his Czech teammates would take full advantage of, winning the gold medal in unexpected fashion. He was back on the international scene once again, earning another bronze at the 1998 World Championships.
Half way through the 2000-01 season, Šlégr was sent by the Penguins to the Atlanta Thrashers, where he would play 33 games to end the season.
He was with the Thrasher for 38 more games in the first half of the 2001-02 season before another trade, which sent him to the Detroit Red Wings. While he would only play 8 regular season games and 1 playoff game with Detroit, the Red Wings would go on to capture the Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the playoffs.
2002-03 was a lost season for Šlégr, as he would only play 10 games for Litvinov in the Czech Republic and 6 regular season and 9 playoff games for Avangard Omsk in the Russian Super League.
He returned to the NHL by signing a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks for 2003-04, but would end up spending the majority of his season with the Boston Bruins following a trade in January.
Following the season, Šlégr would return to the World Championships for the first time in six years. His second World Cup of Hockey came in September of that year. With the NHL season cancelled due to a lockout, Šlégr once again returned to where it began, suiting up for a full season with HC Litvinov, with whom he had his best offensive season in five years with 29 points.
With the Czech domestic season now over, Šlégr joined the national team for his fourth World Championshps for the Czech Republic, which they won with an 8-1 overall record, which included shutting out Canada 3-0 in the final, earning Šlégr a World Championship gold to go with his Olympic gold in 1998 and his Stanley Cup in 2002, making him a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club, one of only 16 men at the time to have done so, and to date one of only two Czechs to have earned the honor, along with Jaromir Jagr.
Šlégr with the World Championship trophy,
which completed his membership in the Triple Gold Club
When the NHL resumed play in 2005-06, Šlégr was back with the Bruins, for whom he played 32 games.
Following that season, he returned to Litvinov for the sixth time! He would play four seasons there, retiring from hockey in 2010 before beginning his second career in politics, having been elected to Chamber of Deputies.
Šlégr with HC Litvinov
Šlégr's final NHL career totals are 622 games, 56 goals and 193 assists for 249 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins Jiří Šlégr jersey as worn during one of the Penguins opening pair of games in Japan against the Nashville Predators to open the NHL season. This was the third and final time the NHL season would get under way in Tokyo.
This style Penguins jersey was introduced in 1992-93 following their second Stanley Cup championship. The modernized Penguins logo was dubbed the "robo-Penguin" and remained in use through the 2001-02 season before a full-time return of the original skating penguin logo.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Czech Republic Jiří Šlégr jersey as worn the first time Šlégr played for the Czech Republic following the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
This jersey was made by Bauer, and as such, the Czechs wore the larger 4" World Cup patch on the shoulder. Sweden and Canada also wore Bauer jerseys paired with the larger version of the patch, unlike the Nike teams, which wore the smaller 3" version of the tournament patch.
In today's video segment, Šlégr scores against Canada in the 1998 Olympics, much to the delight of the announcer.