Friday

Milan Novy

Milan Nový is regarded as one of the all-time greats in Czech hockey history.

His résumé as a player is very impressive. He holds the Czech league record for most career goals with an amazing 474 goals in 633 games. He scored the most goals for four straight years in the league (1973-76). His 59 goals (in 44 games) during the 1976-77 season is still a league record. He also holds the Czech "iron man" record by not missing a single league game in eight years. Novy also scored a fine 120 goals in 211 games for the Czechoslovakian national team. He was a six time league champion, a three time player-of-the-year in Czechoslovakia and a two time world champion.

His most famous goal was undoubtedly the one that he scored against Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup when Czechoslovakia won 1-0 in what hockey experts unanimously agree is one of the best games ever. Despite the fact that Canada lost that game the crowd at the Montreal Forum stood up and gave both teams a standing ovation for their marvelous play. The legendary Bobby Orr said that it was the best game he ever played in.

That season Novy was at the peak of his career. He won the Czech league title with his team Kladno, became a world champion, and was the leading scorer in the league and in the world championships. Milan's strength was that he could score from anywhere. He beat the goalies with slapshots, wristshots, high, low or dekes. He also handled the passes delivered to him on the fly better than most players. He was truly a world class player. Some journalists labeled him the best skater outside of the NHL, outranking several Soviet stars of the day.

When Novy was released by the communist authorities to pursue a career in the NHL as a 31-year old, his best days were already behind him. The toughest part for him aside from the language barrier was the adaptation to a completely different playing style. After a slow start with the Capitals, Novy, wearing number 66, picked up the pace and finished the season with a respectable 48 points (18 goals and 30 assists) and showed glimpses of his brilliance.

His stint in North America only lasted for one season before he went back to Europe. He signed a lucrative contract with the 2nd division Swiss team Zürcher SC where he played for two seasons. In 1985-86 he played for the Austrian team WEV Wien where he was one of the leading scorers. Milan retired after that season but made a sensational comeback for his old Czech team Poldi Kladno as a 36-year old in 1987 finishing fifth overall in the scoring race. That 1987-88 season was his last although he easily could have played for another two or three years. Novy instead opted for a coaching career.

Had Milan Novy played in the NHL when he was in his mid 20's then he most certainly would have been a regular 80 point scorer.

Special thanks to Pat Houda.

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