Vladimír Zábrodský, the Czech winger who propelled Czechoslovakia to their first World Championship Gold and Olympic Silver in history, passed away today in Stockholm at the age of 97.
Zábrodský, a Prague native, joined LTC Praha of the Czech League in 1938, spending eleven seasons before making the move to Sparta Praha in 1950. He would stay with Sparta for another nine seasons before joining the Swedish League in 1969, spending one season as a player and six seasons as a coach. Zábrodský won the Czech Extraliga title a staggering eleven times between 1938-54, but following the Czech government’s crackdown of the national team at the 1950 World Championship, Zabrodsky, the only player not jailed on the team, his appearances lessened until he managed to defect to Sweden in 1965, soon joined by his brother and fellow national team member Oldřich.
Zábrodský first joined the national team in 1946, joining the World Championship team in 1947 that crushed opponents (Canada did not participate in the first post-war Worlds), scoring 29 goals in 7 games en route to the first ever Czech Gold medal, as well as Czechoslovakia’s first IHLC title. Zábrodský returned to captain the 1948 St. Moritz Olympic team, scoring another 22 goals in 8 games en route to a Silver medal, which they only lost Gold to Canada by way of a goals-scored tiebreaker. Zábrodský would play at another three Worlds (1949, 1954, 1955) and the 1956 Cortina Olympics, winning Gold in 1949 and Bronze in 1955. Zábrodský was named to both the Czech and IIHF Hall of Fame, being part of the inaugural class of the latter in 1997.
Our condolences go out to the Zábrodský family, as well as the extended Czech hockey community, on the sudden and loss of one of the pioneers of international hockey in Czechia.