Vladimir Zábrodský was a Czechoslovakian giant who almost single-handedly put hockey on the map in what is now the Czech and Slovakian Republic. Zábrodský was one of the first European superstars, but also one of the most controversial figures in all of hockey.
He was born in Prague on March 7, 1923. He started playing hockey as a kid for the legendary club LTC (Lawn Tennis Cercle) Praha (1945-49) Then between 1950 and 1960 he played for Spartak CKD Sokolovo and finished his career playing for Bohemians CKD Praha (1963-65). He fled from Czechoslovakia in 1965 and moved to Sweden where became a successful trainer for clubs like Leksand and Rögle.
His individual play single-handedly won his team many games. He led the national team to the 1947 and 1949 World Championships. He also participated in the 1948,54,55 and 56 World Championships as well as two Olympic tournaments (1948 and 56). In the 1948 Olympic games in St. Moritz Switzerland, he led the tournament in scoring and his team to a 6-0-1 record, good enough for the silver medal.
Zábrodský was the Czech national team. He represented the Czechs 93 times and scored an incredible 158 goals, including 29 goals in 7 World Championship games in 1947 and 21 in 8 Olympic games in 1948 !
In Czech league play this crafty center scored 306 goals in 237 games spanning 16 seasons. He led the league in scoring 5 times - 1947 (17 goals), 1949 (19), 1954 (30), 1957 (33) and in 1959 (23). He also won the league championship 6 times - 1946-49 (LTC Praha) and 1953 and 19 54 (Spartak CKD Sokolovo).
The tall and lanky Zábrodský took over from Josef Malecek as the greatest Czech hockey star. He was a soloist who treated the game like an art form, but often clashed with coaches, even feuding with Canadian born Czech coaching legend Mike Buckna.
Zábrodský will also go down to history as one of the players who were on the first ever hockey team that visited Russia in 1948. His LTC Praha team played three games against the Russians and helped them develop their hockey.
12 of Zábrodský's teammates were jailed for espionage and treason in 1950. Their sentences ranged from 8 months to 15 years. Zábrodský somehow wasn't jailed and many people to this day think that he was a "rat", who snitched on his teammates in order to escape any punishment for himself. Zabrodsky continued to play hockey until 1960 when he was suspended for three years for his part in a gambling scandal.
Big Zábrodský wasn't just a hockey giant, he was also an excellent tennis player of good international quality. He even represented Czechoslovakia in the Davis Cup. After his coaching career was over he focused on tennis while living in Stockholm. He ran one of the most successful tennis schools in Sweden for a long time. As we entered the new millennium, his sons (Vladimir Jr. and Jan) had taken over the tennis business.
Vladimir Zábrodský was truly one of Europes great players of the 1940's and 50's.
Special Thanks To Patrick Houda