Vladimir Martinec was one of the smartest and most technically skilled European player ever. It is doubtful if there has ever been any player in Europe as eager to improvise as Martinec. He was extremely creative with the puck and drove his opponents crazy.
Few players were treated more brutally than Martinec. This small (5'9" and 178 Ibs) right wing somehow always seemed to bounce back totally undisturbed and more often than not with a smile on his face. His constant smile was a sort of a trademark and frustrated his opponents even more. A lot of reporters used to ask him why he always was smiling, even after a vicious crosscheck in the back. He said that he did it because he enjoyed the game so much and always had fun.
It was evident that he loved the game as he always did something extra with the puck that left the fans absolutely stunned. Martinec was known as "The Fox" for his cleverness around the net as he simply outsmarted his opponents. He was extremely popular among his teammates who knew him as "Marcello".
Martinec was born on December 22, 1949 in Lomnice nad Popelkou where he learned to play hockey on the local ponds. He played there for a local team between 1961-65. He then went on to play his entire career in Tesla Pardubice between 1965-81, with a half year interruption in 1978-79 when he played for the Army club Dukla Jihlava.
In Pardubice he formed one of the most dangerous lines in Europe during the 1970's together with Jiri Novák and Bohuslav Stastný. They scored over 800 goals together in Pardubice. During his 14 years in the Czechoslovakian league he scored 343 goals in 539 games. He was the league's top scorer in 1979 (42 goals) and won the league title in 1973. After his domestic career was over he played in Germany for ESV Kaufbeuren between 1981-85.
Internationally Martinec played 289 times for Czechoslovakia and scored 155 goals. He led the team to three World Championship titles (1972,76 and 77) and was selected as the best forward in the 1976 World Championships where he won the scoring title. Martinec was also named to the All-Star team four years in a row (1974-77). All in all Martinec scored 110 points (52+58) in 102 World Championship games.
His childhood idol growing up was Vlastimil Bubnik, a Czechoslovakian hockey star in the 1950's and 60's. Martinec has said that the best player he ever played against was Phil Esposito. Martinec never played in the NHL but he was drafted by Hartford Whalers in a special Czech draft in 1981. His dazzling moves would certainly have caught a lot of NHL defensemen off guard, but unfortunately he never got the opportunity to showcase his artistry.
After his playing career was over he became a coach. He was the assistant coach when the Czech Republic won the Olympic gold in 1998 and became the World Champions in 1999.
Special thanks to Patrick Houda.
In the following YouTube footage you can watch highlights of a 1976 game between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Martinec is #10.