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Thursday, April 13, 2017

1998 Poland National Team Mariusz Czerkawski Jersey

Born on this date in Poland in 1972, Mariusz Czerkawski began playing for GKS Tychy's junior team in 1988-89. During his second season with Tychy, Czerkawski showed his promise with 35 goals and 46 points in 30 games. He would play one more season for GKS with 25 goals and 40 points in 24 games.

During his time playing club hockey in Poland, he also participated in several international tournaments for his national team, first playing in the 1989 European U18 Junior Tournament B Pool as a 16 year old, scoring 5 goals and 11 points in 5 games and helping Poland earn a promotion to the Top Division.

He got to enjoy the fruits of his labor in 1990, again playing for Poland's U18 team at the World Championships. There, he scored 9 goals and 12 points in 6 games, an average of 2 points per game. Of note, he finished fourth in scoring behind future NHLers such as Slava Kozlov and Espen Knutsen and ahead of  Sergei Zholtok, Mikael RenbergAlexei Kovalev, Jere Lehtinen and Martin Straka. His obvious talents were rewarded with a roster spot on the Polish World Junior U20 team despite being just 17 years old.

Czerkawski again pulled double duty for Poland in 1991, only this time playing in first the U20 World Juniors B Pool, where he dominated with 12 goals and 15 points in 7 games to lead the tournament in scoring on his way to being named the tournament MVP. He was again rewarded for his efforts when he was a part of the Poland National Team at the 1991 World Championship B Pool at the senior level as an 18 year old. Playing with players much older than he was did not phase Czerkawski, as he scored 6 goals and 8 points in 7 games, helping Poland earn a promotion to the newly expanded Top Division for 1992, as four promotion spots were up for grabs that year.

Czerkawski Poland 1
Czerkawski in the red and white of Poland

His success on the international scene led to Czerkawski being drafted during the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round, #106 overall.

Needing tougher competition to continue his development if he were to make it to the NHL, Czerkawski moved to Sweden for the 1991-92 season, joining Djurgardens IF in the Eliteserien. He found the going somewhat more difficult but acquitted himself with 8 goals and 13 points in 39 games. That season he also made his Olympic debut, playing at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. Later that spring, he also returned to the World Championships, only now in the Top Division for the first time.

Czerkawski Djurgardens 1
Czerkawski moved to Sweden to continue is development

For the 1992-93 season, Czerkawski played with Hammarby IF in the second level of Swedish hockey, where he had a fine season with 39 goals and 69 points in only 32 games. He also asserted himself with 74 penalty minutes.

He was back with Djurgardens for the 1993-94 season, scoring at nearly a point per game clip this time around, as he scored 13 times on his way to 34 points in 39 games played. Once Djurgardens was eliminated from the playoffs, Czerkawski made his NHL debut with the Bruins, playing in 4 regular season games, scoring twice before playing an additional 13 playoff games, adding 3 goals and 6 points to the Bruins effort. On his debut, Czerkawski became the first Polish born and trained player in NHL history.

The start of the 1994-95 season was delayed by labor issues, and Czerkawski signed on with Espoo Blues of the Finnish SM-Liiga. He played in 7 games for the Blues with 9 goals and 12 points before returning to North America for the resumption of play in the NHL. In 47 games with Boston, he scored 12 goals and 26 points.

Czerkawski Bruins 1
Czerkawski played 80 games for the Bruins
divided over the course of two seasons

Czerkawski returned to the Bruins for the 1995-96 season, and after 11 points in 33 games, he was involved in a trade that sent himself, Sean Brown and a first round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Bill Ranford. During the second half of the season with Edmonton, Czerkawski had 12 goals and 29 points.

He played the entire 1996-97 season with the Oilers, seeing action in 76 games, scoring 26 goals and 47 points before an additional 12 playoff games.

Czerkawski Edmonton 1
Czerkawski played a season and a half with the Oilers

Just before the 1997-98 season, Czerkawski was traded to the New York Islanders for Dan LaCouture. At first, the move affected his offensive output, as he scored roughly half the number of points he had the year before with the Oilers. Czerkawski also returned to the international scene for the first time in six years when he played in the World Championships B Pool Qualifying Round in early November for the Poles.

Czerkawski Islanders 4
Czerkawski was with the Islanders during their final
season with the controversial Fisherman jerseys

Over the next two seasons Czerkawski's offensive game not only returned, but thrived. In 1998-99 he scored 20 goals for the second time in his NHL career with 21 on his way to 38 points followed by setting career highs in 1999-00 with 35 goals, 35 assists and 70 points to far and away lead the Islanders in scoring, 28 points more than Brad Isbister in second! His fine season was rewarded by being named to the 2000 NHL All-Star Game.

Czerkawski Islanders 21
Czerkawski had a career year in 1999-00
and played in the NHL All-Star Game

Coming off his success in the NHL, Czerkawski scored 4 goals and 11 points in Poland's effort at the 2000 World Championships B Pool.

Czerkawski Poland 2
Czerkawski played for Poland 11 times during his career 

Czerkawski played every one of the Islanders games over the course of the next two seasons, again reaching 30 goals in 2000-01 while serving as an assistant team captain for New York. After scoring 62 points that season, he numbers slipped to 22 goals and 51 points in 2001-02. In 2001, the IIHF World Championship ladder system was renovated, and when Czerkawski returned to play for Poland in 2002, they were now placed in the expanded Top Division, Czerkawski's second time participating at the top level since first doing so in 1992.

Czerkawski Islanders 1

Czerkawski was traded to the Montreal Canadiens following the season for Arron Asham and a draft pick. The fit was not a good one for Czerkawski, and he only played half a season for the Canadiens with just 5 goals and 14 points in 43 games. He also played 20 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs down in the American Hockey League with 20 points in 20 games as well as 6 postseason games with the Bulldogs.

He then returned to the Islanders when he signed as a free agent for the 2003-04 season, where he returned to form with 25 goal sand 49 points playing in 81 games that season.

Czerkawski Islanders 3
Czerkawski was back with the Islanders for the 2003-04 season

With the 2004-05 NHL season cancelled by the lockout, Czerkawski returned to Djurgardens IF in Sweden where he scored 15 times on his way to 24 points in 46 games. He also took part in the Olympic qualification rounds for Poland, leading the way with 6 goals and 10 points in 6 games. While Poland won the pre-qualification Group E tournament at home in November of 2004 over the Netherlands, Lithuania and Croatia, they were overmatched in the final qualification tournament against Latvia, Belarus and Slovenia.

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Czerkawski rejoined Djurgardens IF for 2004-05

The NHL returned to the ice in 2005-06, and by now Czerkawski was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, having signed as a free agent. It was not a good fit and, after being a healthy scratch for most of the season, he would only play in just 19 games in Toronto, scoring just 4 goals and a lone assist before being claimed off waivers near the trade deadline by his original NHL club, the Bruins. He played in 16 games to finish out the Bruins schedule with an identical 4 goals and one assist. Czerkawski made his final international appearance for Poland that spring, playing in the 2006 World Championships Division 1 Group B tournament, leading the Poles with 3 goals and 7 points in 5 games.

For the 2006-07 season, Czerkawski returned to Europe and signed with Rapperswil-Jona Lakers in the Swiss National League A. He excelled with 21 goals and 41 points in 43 games for second on the team in overall scoring. For the 2007-08 season, he exceeded a point per game with 22 goals and 53 points in 49 games, again second on the club by a single point to effectively bring an end to his career, but Czerkawski did appear in a single game for GKS Tychy where it all began in Poland during the 2008-09 season.

Czerkawski Jona 1
Czerkawski returned to Europe with Rapperswil-Jona

His final NHL totals were 745 games played with 215 goals and 220 assists for 435 points as well as an additional 15 points in 42 playoff games in 12 NHL seasons. He remains far and away the most successful NHLer ever from Poland with 390 more than Krzysztof Oliwa's 45.

Internationally, Czerkawski played for Poland on 11 occasions, scoring 44 goals and 73 points in 61 games combined between the junior and senior levels.

Today's featured jersey is a 1998 Poland National Team Mariusz Czerkawski jersey as worn at the 1998 World Championship Group B in Slovenia.

Poland played its first international game back in 1926 with a best World Championship finish of 4th in 1931. They have appeared in 65 World Championships and have played in Division 1 every year since 2003. In their effort to return to the Top Division, they won promotion from Division 1 Group B in 2014 and have finished 3rd in Division 1 Group A in 2015 and 2016.

To date, they have participated in 13 Olympics and were in six consecutive Games during the 1970s and 1980s, but not have qualified for the Olympics since their last appearance in 1992.

Poland 1998 F jersey
Poland 1998 B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1998 Djurgardens IF Mariusz Czerkawski jersey. Djurgardens IF was founded in 1922 in Stockholm, Sweden and are 16-time Swedish champions and twice have won the European Cup.

Djurgardens 2004-05 IF F jersey
Djurgardens IF 2004-05 B jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Edmonton Oilers Mariusz Czerkawski jersey. Czerkawski joined the Oilers in 1995-96 for their final season in their blue and orange classic jerseys worn during the era when they won five Stanley Cups. For Czerkawski's second season in Edmonton, the club debuted this new, more mature look, with the blue now several shades darker and the bright orange replaced by bronze with the addition of subtle red trim.

This style lasted from 1996-97 through 2006-07. The jersey style was replaced by a new Reebok Edge jersey in 2007-08 but the midnight blue and bronze color scheme remained until 2011-12 when the transformation back to their original look was completed in 2012-13 when the midnight blue jersey, which had been reduced to third jersey status for 2011-12, was retired.

Edmonton Oilers 1996-97 F jersey
Edmonton Oilers 1996-97 B jersey

Today's video section is a package of Czerkawski highlights while he was with the Islanders set to some raucous music. We're calling this one volume optional.

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