Just days after the death of Ján Starší, who built the Czechoslovak national team into a dominant force in the 1970’s, the man who helped carry the Czechoslovakian team through the 1980’s and Czech team in the 1990’s has also passed away, as Luděk Bukač today died at the age of 83.
As a player, Bukač debuted with ČLTK Praha in 1949, spending nine seasons before spending stints with Sparta Praha (six seasons) and Dukla Jihlava (two seasons), all in the Czech Extraliga. Internationally, he debuted for Czechoslovakia at the 1961 World Championship, appearing at the 1961 and 1963 iterations, winning silver at the former in Switzerland and bronze at the latter in Stockholm. He would rejoin Sparta Praha as head coach after retiring as a player in 1967, coaching for two seasons before stints with Košice and and České Budějovice.
After only five seasons coaching at the club level, Bukač joined the Narodnitym as an assistant coach in 1980, becoming head coach the following year for the 1981 Canada Cup. Bukač would further coach at four straight World Championsips (1982-85) before joining the Austrian national team, spending five seasons with the Eagles with both the senior and junior teams. Bukač joined the newly-unified German national team in 1992, spending three seasons before returning to his native team for the 1995 World Championship, leading the Czechs to their first World title as an independent nation in 1996. Bukač would spend two more years coaching, one with Czechia and one with Poland, before retiring in 1999.
Bukač, both an IIHF and Czech Hall of Famer, first won the IHLC as a player at the 1963 World Championship, winning it thrice more as a coach – at the World Championships in 1985, 1995 and 1996. Our condolences go out to the Bukač family, as well as the extended hockey community in Czechia, on the passing of this legendary coach.