Tuesday

Jaroslav Holik

Chances are you know Jaroslav Holik's son. Yes, he is best known as the father of Bobby Holik.

I remember when Bobby Holik was just breaking into the NHL there was a Sports Illustrated article profiling the Holik family. Back in 1991 Jay Greenberg wrote:

"Holik's dedication to hard work is, like his sleek, hard, 6'3", 210-pound body, the product of a controlled experiment. For the first 18 years of Bobby's life, his father, Jaroslav, one of the best players Czechoslovakia has ever produced, dedicated himself to making Bobby good enough to play in the NHL. The result—an Ivan Draso on skates—has been unleashed on the league"

That's quite the picture painted of both son and father. Jaroslav was being portrayed as this Iron Curtain mad scientist who created a hockey Frankenstein. He was not quite like that, though he was determined to give his children the best life possible.

Jaroslav Holik was a titan of Czech hockey, playing 19 bruising seasons in the Czechoslovakian Elite League in a hulking style very similar to Bobby. Jaroslav was a big brute of a center, with laboured skating thanks to serious leg injuries early in his career, who most often skated with brother Jiri, an elegant sniper, and Jan Klapac. They represented his country at the 1972 Olympics and several World Championships, and in 1999 Jaroslav was an obvious selection to the International Ice Hockey Federaion Hall of Fame.

Having a chance to travel the world with the Czechoslovakian national team, Jaroslav got to see much of the western world, something not most of people behind the Iron Curtain got to experience. He was determined his own kids would have what the West had.

He raised son Bobby and daughter Andrea - a pro tennis player who defected in 1986 and later married Frank Musil - educating them about the west, even installing a satellite dish so they could learn English and experience American and British culture.

While they were afforded that unique opportunity, they were also driven hard by their father.

As John Dellapana wrote back in 2002:

"Bobby soaked it all up, willingly enduring his father's iron-fisted approach and his abusive style as coach of his son's local Czech League team. It has been said that he was bred to play in the NHL, and legend has it that he was even fed raw meat by his dad in an effort to make him bigger and stronger."

Jaroslav could have defected himself, and probably even been a NHL trailblazer, but he chose to stay home with his family. He publicly battled the Communist party and devoting everything he had to giving his children a chance for something better.

"Looking back, yeah, my father tried," Bobby says. "He had two children and said, 'I'm going to give my children the best.' He wanted his children to excel at whatever they did. Obviously he wanted me to play hockey.

"And he said, 'I'm going to make him. I'm going to give him an opportunity to play in the NHL, which I missed out on.' For me, it was the ticket out. He knew there was a better world out there for his children. That was the world he knew the best — hockey. So he passed on his knowledge onto me."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to the IIHF site, it's Jiri who is in the Hall of Fame, not Jaroslav.

Alexandra said...

If he isn't in the Hall of Fame he should be, if only for his breakaway game winner that stole the 1972 World Championship from the USSR.

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