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Longtime NHL defenseman Petr Svoboda was born on Feb. 14, 1966 in the town of Most, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic. Svoboda defected from the then-communist country as a teenager and joined the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 1984 NHL Draft, at age 18.  

Although injury prone due to his deceptively frail-looking frame and willingness to take punishment, Svoboda went on to enjoy a very solid 1,028-game NHL career that included three full seasons and portions of two others as a member of the Flyers.

A combination of puck-moving mobility, positional smarts, a fearless willingness to take a hit to protect the puck or move it to safety, a willingness to block shots and a defense-first mentality that grew over the course of his career (he was more of a point-producer in his early years) were the defining aspects of Svoboda's game. So, too, was a considerable chippy streak: Svoboda was no stranger to using his stick as an equalizer.

By the time the Flyers acquired Svoboda from the Buffalo Sabres in a 1995 trade deadline deal for fellow veteran Garry Galley, the Czech defenseman was a 29-year-old veteran in his 11th NHL season. The deal served the Flyers well during Svoboda's time with the team.

Frequently paired with talented but inconsistent young defenseman Karl Dykhuis, Svoboda was a stabilizing force on the Flyers' blue line for several seasons. As with top-pairing anchor Eric Desjardins, Philly was usually a markedly better team with the underrated Svoboda in the defensive rotation than they were during his injury-related absences. Svoboda provided a steady presence throughout the Flyers' run to within two wins of reaching the 1995 Stanley Cup Final.

The 1995-96 regular season was Svoboda's healthiest during his Flyers tenure. Dressing in 73 of 82 games, he posted 29 points (one goal, 28 assists), a stellar plus-28 rating at even strength and 107 penalty minutes while leading his pairing with Dykhuis. Although he was playing through injury in the playoffs, Svoboda stepped up his game to post six points (including points in each of the Flyers' final five games in a six-game loss to Florida in the second round) and a plus-six rating,

On Feb. 1, 1996, Svoboda was on the receiving end of a vicious and gratuitous elbow by Montreal Canadians forward Marc Bureau (later a Flyers teammate) that rendered Svoboda unconscious on the Spectrum ice. Bleeding, the defenseman was immobilized and stretchered onto a waiting ambulance. Remarkably, he only missed one game due to a concussion and played well upon his return.

Svoboda withdrew from the 1996 World Cup of Hockey due to injury. Rejoining the Flyers for the 1996-97 campaign, frequent health issues limited him to 67 regular season games and 16 playoff games; he went down in Game One of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings and was unable to return to the lineup.

When he played, however, Svoboda remained highly effective. He was plus-10 with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and 94 penalty minutes in his 67 regular season games and plus-five with three point (one goal, two assists) during the Flyers run to the Final,

The 1997-98 season was a bittersweet one for Svoboda. Wearing the national team jersey of the Czech Republic - now a democratic country - Svoboda helped anchor the blueline of a team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The NHL season, however, was a frustrating one for both Svoboda and the Flyers.

A fractured right hand forced Svoboda to miss the first month of the season. Later on, he had three additional multi-game stretches out of the lineup due to assorted injuries. Nevertheless, playing with new partners following the offseason trade of Dykhuis to Tampa Bay, Svoboda continued to play at a high level when available to dress for games.

In 56 regular season games in 1997-98, Svoboda posted 18 points (three goals, 15 assists), 83 penalty minutes and a plus-19 rating. The injury bug bit him again the playoffs, as he was only able to dress in three of five games after he was concussed by an accidental knee to the head by Buffalo Sabres forward Dixon Ward. Even upon his return, Svoboda could only play sparing minutes, skating just 10:50 in his final game. The Flyers went down quickly to the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.

Heading into the 1998-99 season, the now 32-year-old Svoboda entered the third year of the four-year contract (paying him a reported $1.5 million per season) that he signed with the Flyers in September 1996. Knee problems -- which eventually caused him to miss several games -- affected him early.

Flyers head coach Roger Neilson made Svoboda a semi-healthy scratch four four games in early November. The proud veteran was angered. Upon his return, resumed heavy-duty ice time in which he even put together an offensive mini-run of two goals and three points in his first five games back in the lineup.

Svoboda dressed in 25 games for the Flyers during the 1998-99 season, scoring four goals (actually his single-season career high for the Philadelphia portion of his career) and six points, with a plus-five rating and 28 penalty minutes. Nevertheless, Neilson and management felt that all the years of punishment were starting to take a toll on the player's overall effectiveness.

On Dec. 28, 1998, the Flyers traded Svoboda to Tampa Bay. In return, the Flyers reacquired Svoboda's former defense partner, Dykhuis.

Svoboda finished out his career with weak Lightning teams, retiring at age 35 after an injury-riddled 2000-01 season. By this point, he was strictly a veteran depth player.

Following his NHL playing career, Svoboda became a player agent. This caused some confusion because there is another agent named Peter Svoboda (who represented former Flyers goaltender Roman Cechmanek among other clients). The other Svoboda added an "e" to the spelling of his first name some years ago to differentiate himself from others who share his name.

"Svoboda" is a relatively common Czech surrname. Appropriately, considering that the player left his homeland and family as a teenager in search of escape from the oppressive government regime of the time, the name Svoboda directly translates to "Freedom" in English.

As an agent, long-tenured former NHL player Svoboda has represented the likes of the legendary Jaromir Jagr and current standout Jakub Voracek. It was on advice of Svoboda that Jagr signed a one-year contract with the Flyers when he made his return to the NHL in 2011 following a three-year absence to play in the KHL.