Head West Old Men



Several skaters from both squads at the de facto Gold Medal Match of the 1976 Innsbruck Games eventually headed west to play some more hockey at the tail end of their careers.

The authorities in Czechoslovakia, who had been allowing aging players to compete in Western Europe since the late 1960s, adopted a new transfer policy involving the professional National Hockey League in the summer of 1981.

Thus, former Czechoslovak national team players IVAN HLINKA and JIRI BUBLA joined the Vancouver Canucks hockey club who skated their way to the 1982 Stanley Cup finals before bowing to the-then two-time defending NHL champion, the New York Islanders. 

The following season, the 1982-83 schedule, MIROSLAV DVORAK put on the shirt of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jarosloav POUZAR checked in present for the Edmonton Oilers and MILAN NOVY went to the Washington Capitals.

Later, MILAN CHALUPA, after a total of three Winter Olympic Games for Czechoslovakia had a short cup of coffee for the Detroit Red Wings in 1984-85.

All were preceded by the backup goalkeeper for Czechoslovakia at Innsbruck, however. Tesla Pardubice netminder JIRI CRHA had defected the Iron Curtain following the 1978-79 and turned up in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in February of 1980. Then 29, Crha became the first Czechoslovak to ever bolt the domestic league and jump directly to an NHL club.

Crha and Chalupa were later long-time teammates for EHC Freiburg in West Germany.

The Czechoslovak Ice Hockey Federation had, after the 1969-70 season, discontinued the practice of allowing NHL participation to Czechoslovak players. JAROSLAV JIRIK had been the lone player sent to the St. Louis Blues for a single year, most of which was spent in the minors with the Kansas City Blues of the Central Hockey League.

Clearly, the Crha Case was of at least some influence to the the Czechoslovak authorities.

As for the rest of the silver medalists at Innsbruck, almost all were permitted to play at least a little professional hockey in Western Europe later on down the line.

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