Jaroslav Jirik, the first Czech allowed by communist authorities to play in the NHL, has died. He was 71.
Jirik died Monday in a crash of his ultralight one-seat plane in the city of Brno, about 200 kilometres southeast of Prague.
St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Cliff Fletcher, under GM Scotty Bowman, actually signed three Czech players in 1969, but Jirik, who was 30, was the only one allowed to leave for North America.
A five-time 20-goal scorer in the Czech league, Jirik had no points in three NHL games in 1969-70, although he did score a disallowed goal. He spent most of that season with the Blues¹ Kansas City farm club, getting 19 goals in 53 games.
Jirik turned down an invitation to play for the Blues in 1970-71 season. He played five more seasons in the Czech league and then turned to coaching. He coached Switzerland¹s national team during the late 1970s.
Fletcher also signed Jan Havel, 27, and Josef Horesovsky, 23, in 1969 but they were deemed by the Czech government to be too young to be released.