While most NHL-only fans won't believe this, there is a significant portion of the hockey loving population that believes Robert Reichel is one of the greatest legends in hockey history. Beyond that they worship him as a decorated hockey warrior and leader.
Robert Reichel the NHLer may be remembered by history, assuming he is at all, as a supremely talented but classic underachiever who was usually disinterested unless it was payday.
But Robert Reichel the international player is an absolute legend in his native Czech Republic where he is among the all time hockey greats.
Reichel, the long time national team captain, had his crowning moment in 1998 when he led the what many call the greatest moment in the Czech's glorious hockey history, winning the first ever Olympic gold medal featuring all NHL players.
That medal is the highlight of a trophy case that includes 3 World Championship gold and 4 World Championship bronze medals, and a silver and bronze World Junior Championship medal.
Reichel had all the tools to be a great NHLer, and for a time it looked like he would achieve that destiny. Starting his career in Calgary, he put back to back 40 goal seasons in years 3 and 4 of his career, before the NHL lockout of 1994-95 wiped out half a season. Reichel left for Germany, where he was a dual citizen and where his brother played.
Upon his return to NHL action, Reichel never found his game. His heart may have been back home, as he returned to Germany for the entire 1995-96 season.
Lured back to the NHL by the big dollar contracts, Reichel returned to Calgary before spending time with the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs, never finding much success in the NHL again.
After such success and status in his native Czech Republic, Reichel decided to go back to his hometown of Litvinov, where he continued to play years after his NHL days were over.