September 07, 2011

Remembering Josef Vasicek

I will always remember Josef Vasicek as the lumbering but imposing giant with the Carolina Hurricanes in their Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2002 as well as with their championship victory in 2006.

Vasicek was a player who never really fulfilled his NHL potential. Despite his humongous size and terrific hockey instincts. And he was not a bad skater by any means, considering he was so big. But he was inconsistent and, like so many European players, preferred to pass than shoot. It was frustrating for fans so I can only imagine how his coaches felt. More than a few must have laid wide awake at night trying to light a fire under him so that he would just take the puck and drive the net like a true power forward.

Vasicek did do nicely in Carolina's unsuccessful Cup run in 2002, where he really stood out as a surprise breakout player. You could not help but be wowed by this giant kid most of us had never really watched before. He would go on to a 460 game NHL career, but became bogged down with injuries.

Big Vasicek left for Yaroslavl of the KHL in 2008 and became of the team's top players in it's history. He and Pavol Demitra formed a special bond and entertained local fans with great play.

In September 2011 Josef Vasicek was looking forward to his fourth season in Yaroslavl when, unbelievably, the team's chartered jet crashed killing Vasicek and all but one of his teammates.

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