September 07, 2011
Karel Rachunek turned out to be a solid, reliable NHL defenseman over a 371 game career.
Many NHL fans remember him breaking in as a rookie with Ottawa. He distinguished himself as a really steady presence right away, and many people were raving about the Senators great young group of defensemen - Wade Redden, Sami Salo, Chris Phillips, and now the unexpected rookie rock, Karel Rachunek.
The hype was a bit over blown. He was solid and reliable, best suited for a depth role. After 4 seasons of gradual descent in Ottawa, he really began bouncing around the hockey world. He played for the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, but he never found a comfort level in North America. He also played for Znojemsti Excalibur Orli in his native Czech league, as well as Moscow Dynamo and most notably Lokomotive Yaroslavl in the KHL. He really emerged later in his career as a standout, though he had left the NHL by then.
Rachunek really came into his own with Yaroslavl. He actually had three distinct stints in Yaroslavl, but in his last stretch he emerged as a KHL star. He scored 11 goals and 46 points in 50 games.
He showed off his confident, improved game to the entire world when he helped the Czech Republic win gold (2010) and bronze (2011) at the World Championships. Rachunek set up team captain Tomas Rolinek for the gold medal winning goal in 2010. In an earlier game against Sweden Rachunek scored a memorable shoot out by unleashing an overpowering slap shot.
Rachunek was named as Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's team captain for the 2011-12 season. Unbelievably, Rachunek and his teammates perished in a plane crash on September 7th, 2011. The team was just taking off for their season opener in Minsk.