Tuesday, June 6, 2017

1989 Czechoslovakia National Team Vladimir Ruzicka Jersey

Center Vladimir Ruzicka began his hockey career with HC Litvinov's junior team in the 1978-79 season, impressing with a goal just 10 seconds into his first game! He also made his first of many appearances for Czechoslovakia at the 1979 European Junior Championships that season, starting his international career in fine style with a gold medal.

In 1979-80 he played for both Litvinov's U18 team as well as making his debut with the senior squad, seeing action in nine games.

In 1980-81, he played 41 games for Litvinov's senior team, scoring 12 goals and 25 points while still just 17 years old, which allowed him to play in both the European U18 junior tournament as well as making his debut at the World Junior Championships, scoring 5 goals in 5 games for Czechoslovakia. At the U18 tournament, Ruzicka he led all scorers with 16 points and won a silver medal.

The 1981-82 season saw Ruzicka average more than a point per game in the Czech Extraliga when he scored 27 goals and 49 points in 44 games for Litvinov. He repeated that feat at the World Juniors with 8 goals and 9 points in 7 games, leading the tournament in goals and earning a silver medal.

Those flashy stats caught the attention of the NHL scouts, and Ruzicka was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 73rd selection in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. With the political situation as it was at the time, Ruzicka was not simply free to leave to play in the NHL if he wished, as Czechoslovakia was still under communist rule then. As late as January of 1989, Petr Nedved had to defect in order to come to North America.

With the NHL not an option, Ruzicka played five more seasons for HC Litvinov from 1982-83 to 1986-87. He then played two seasons for HK Dukla Trencin in 1987-88 and 1988-89. During this time period, his best season in the Czech Extraliga was the 1985-86 season with Litvinov when he scored 41 goals and 73 points in 43 games. His dependability was impeccable, as he never scored less than 22 goals and five times had 31 or more in 44 game seasons for 8 consecutive seasons.

While with Litvinov and Trencin, Ruzicka led the Extraliga in goals in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989 and led the league in points in 1984, 1986 and 1989 and was named the Czechoslovak Player of the Year in 1986 and 1988.

During this time period after being drafted he was a regular for Czechoslovakia internationally as well. In 1983 he won a silver medal at the World Juniors, scoring 12 goals and a tournament leading 20 points in just 7 games! That earned him his senior level World Championship debut later that spring when he had a more human 3 goals and 4 points in 10 games on his way to a silver medal.

In 1984, he made his Olympic debut with 4 goals and 10 points in 7 games and another silver medal followed by making the Czechoslovakian roster for the 1984 Canada Cup. In 1985, Ruzicka had 8 goals and 11 points in 10 games while capturing gold at the World Championships. In 1986, he finished with 15 points in 10 games at the Worlds.

He played in the 1987 World Championships, earning a bronze, followed by competing at the 1987 Canada Cup. In 1988, he played in his second Olympics, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 8 games.

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Ruzicka shoots against Grant Fuhr in the 1987 Canada Cup

Ruzicka was named the captain of the Czechoslovakian team for the 1989 World Championships and scored 7 goals and 14 points in 10 games as the Czechs brought home the bronze.

The political situation in Czechoslovakia was turned upside down late in 1989, as the Velvet Revolution saw an end to communist rule. Ruzicka had returned to Litvinov for the 1989-90 season and continued his goal scoring dependability with 21 goals and 44 points in 32 games.

With the Czech season now over, and the barriers to his departure to North America now removed, Ruzicka was free to join the Edmonton Oilers, who had acquired his rights from Toronto in December of 1989. In 25 games with the Oilers, he scored 11 goals and 17 points.

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Ruzicka made his NHL debut with Edmonton

Just prior to the 1990-91 season, Ruzicka was traded by the Oilers to the Boston Bruins. He was limited to just 29 games that season, scoring 8 goals and 16 points. He was healthy in time for the playoffs, where he appeared in another 17 games, scoring 13 points.

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Ruzick spent three seasons with the Bruins

His next season with Boston was his finest in the NHL, as he scored 39 goals and 75 points in 77 games. He returned to Boston for one more season in 1992-93, scoring 19 goals and 41 points in 60 games.

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Ruzicka in the Bruins 
1991-92 Turn Back the Clock jersey

He signed as a free agent with the Ottawa Senators for the 1993-94 season but was limited to 42 games and 18 points.

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Ruzicka's final NHL season was with the Senators

He returned to Europe at the end of the 1993-94 season and participated in 6 playoff games for EV Zug in Switzerland and then played 11 more for HC Slavia Praha in what was now the Czech Republic, helping the team earn a promotion from the second division to the top level of Czech hockey.

With his NHL run now at an end, Ruzicka had found a home with Slavia Praha and played the final six seasons of his career in the Czech capital, all as their team captain, from 1994-95 to 1999-00, including leading the league in points once again in 1996.

After nine years away from international play, Ruzicka was a member of the 1998 Czech Republic National Team at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He named captain of the team and contributed 3 goals in 6 games as the Czechs won a memorable gold medal to bring his international career to a close.

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Ruzicka captained the Czech Republic to a gold medal at the 1998
Olympics, his only major international tournament for the Czech Republic

At the conclusion of his playing days, he immediately became the Slavia's head coach for the next 15 seasons. He also became the head coach for the Czech Republic at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, the 2009 World Championships, the 2010 Olympics, the 2014 and 2015 Worlds and guided them to a gold medal at the 2005 and 2010 World Championships.

His final totals were 648 games in the Czech league with 403 goals and 808 points. While in the NHL, he appeared in 233 games with 82 goals and 167 points. Internationally, he won silver and gold medals at the European Juniors, two silver medals at the World Juniors, two bronze, a silver and a gold at the World Championships and a silver at the 1984 Olympics, all playing for Czechoslovakia, and a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in his only major international appearance for the Czech Republic.

Ruzicka was inducted into the Czech Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.

Today's featured jersey is a 1989 Czechoslovakia National Team Vladimir Ruzicka jersey as worn the first time he captained the Czechoslovakia National Team.

This exact style was worn by Czechoslovakia just once, that being the 1989 World Championships when they earned a bronze medal. For the 1990 Worlds, the heraldic lion was replaced by the Czech flag, oriented vertically through the 1992 Olympics. For their final tournament as Czechoslovakia, they wore the logo of the Czech Ice Hockey Federation at the 1992 World Championships, all while using the same waving flag style of jersey.

This beautiful jersey features the vibrant colors of the dye-sublimation process and the arresting graphics of the era with the colors of the Czechoslovakian flag waving across the body and sleeves, as well as the distinctive Tackla diamond logos on the shoulders and drop shadow block font for the numbers. Note the unusual placement of the captain's "C".

 photo Czechoslovakia 1989 WC H F.jpg
 photo Czechoslovakia 1989 WC H B.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1991-92 Boston Bruins Vladimir Ruzicka jersey as worn during Ruzicka's finest season in the NHL when he had 39 goals and 75 points in 77 games.

The Bruins, along with the other five Original Six clubs, wore a Turn Back the Clock jersey for select games during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season, with the Bruins choosing their 1932-33 jerseys.

 photo Boston Bruins 1991-92 TBTC F jersey.jpg
 photo Boston Bruins 1991-92 TBTC B jersey.jpg

Today's video segment is a great highlight package of Ruzicka's career. Be sure to note all the great jerseys Ruzicka wore throughout his international career. One can only hope that he got to keep a few of them.

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