When one looks back at the early drafting trends of the expansion San Jose Sharks, one will notice a couple of things: Giant players and Europeans.
Otevrel played one more year in the Czech League before coming to North America in 1992-93. Jaroslav did play in 7 games with the Sharks that year, collecting 2 assists, but played most of the year with the Sharks IHL affiliate, scoring 17 goals and 44 points in 62 games.
A long shot to make the NHL, Otevrel was returned to the IHL for more seasoning in 1993-94. Despite his size he was playing relatively soft for the North American game and the Sharks felt he just wasn't ready for the NHL yet. Otevrel played in another 62 games for Kansas City, scoring 20 goals and 53 points this go around. The Sharks gave Otevrel a nice Christmas gift though. They recalled the left winger exactly one week before Christmas and kept him around until mid-January. In the process Otevrel played in 9 games and did his best to make a name for himself - scoring 3 goals and 2 assists.
The Sharks continued to swim in the lowest depths of the NHL waters (in other words: they sucked) and they were often criticized for taking too many Europeans who just weren't panning out. The Sharks philosophy changed a bit in the summer of 1994 as they started taking more North Americans in the draft.
To make room for the North American prospects they had to clean out a few existing prospects. One of those players was Otevrel. It is unclear if the Sharks offered Otevrel a contract, but if they did it wasn't as intriguing as an offer made by Assat Pori of the Finnish League. Otevrel jumped at the opportunity to return to Europe.
Otevrel played 2 seasons with Assat Pori before a shocking incident happened in 1996. A seemingly harmless collision left Otevrel in a crumpled heap on the ice. As it turned out Otevrel had badly injured his neck resulting in paralysis below the waist. Needless to say his career was over, but more important Jaroslav Otevrel's life changed dramatically.
Otevrel, in fact, was paralyzed from the neck down, and is still yet to regain motion in his arms or legs.
He's nowadays living in his homecountry Czech Republic, in a specifically built home. He's using his mouth to control a computer, which he's now doing for a living.
Ässät Pori retired his number, 89, but as per Otevrels request, it has not been raised to the rafters.
YouTube video of the incident:
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