August 31, 2012

Frantisek Kaberle Retires

Frantisek Kaberle has officially (and quietly) retired.

"He was one of the most successful players in Czech hockey history, winning five gold medals from the IIHF World Championships, an Olympic bronze and the Stanley Cup in 2006. Yet his retirement this summer was so quiet, no one noticed for more than a month," is how described his storied career.

It was as if he was destined to play hockey. His brother, of course, is Tomas Kaberle, the higher profile of the two if only because he played much of his career in Toronto. And their father, also named Frantisek, was also a defenseman who was part of World Championship wins for Czechoslovakia in 1976 and 1977 and became a five-time Czechoslovak League Champion with Kladno.

Kaberle was drafted by Los Angeles but is best known for playing in Atlanta and especially in Carolina. In 2006 Kaberle, not a noted goal scorer, scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 of the Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

At his best Frantisek Kaberle was one of the most calm defensemen ever to play the game. His high panic threshold was impressive, as was his heady approach to the game. He liked to wait and make the right play out of the zone, preferably a pass up the ice or possibly rushing the puck into the neutral zone. Unlike his brother, his smarts with the puck did not translate into much in terms of offensive numbers. He did not get a lot of power play time.

Defensively he was not overly aggressive by any stretch of the imagination, preferring to defend with an active stick and strong positioning. However he could be bowled over by stronger forwards. He battled injuries throughout his career, including a bad shoulder and a broken foot. It seemed after each injury he would take some time to regain his confidence and comfort level on the ice.

Frantisek Kaberle finished his NHL career with 29 goals and 164 assists in 523 regular-season games. He added 14 points in 32 Stanley Cup Playoff games, all with the Hurricanes.

Kaberle had his contract bought out by the Hurricanes in 2009. He had been playing with three different Czech league teams in the past three seasons. Tired of moving his family, he opted to hang up his skates when he could not reach a deal with his home town team of Kladno.

Frantisek is helping his wife Katerina set up a clothing boutique in Prague.

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