It's amazing how Philadelphia Flyers
defenseman Jaroslav Modry
can find the focus to compete with such grit and determination each night when he's cognizant of an even greater battle back home in his native Ceske-Budejovice in the Czech Republic.
Modry's 63-year-old father is suffering from inoperable colon cancer.
"It really hurts because he was always a big, strong man and now he's become really fragile, so it's obviously hurting me to see him like that," Modry told NHL.com. "He's my dad; he gave me everything. He brought me to the hockey rinks when I was eight. I realize this is part of life and we just try to make the most out of every day he has. All I can do is try and offer support and provide some energy to keep him upbeat every day. He should be enjoying his age right now; enjoying his life."
Modry, who was traded to the Flyers by the Los Angeles Kings
on Feb. 19, is dedicating his season to dad by playing the game hard and, at times, providing encouragement to whomever may need it. He last visited his father, also named Jaroslav, in December.
"My dad gave us plenty of love and spent any time he had teaching and playing with us when I was younger," Modry said. "He always encouraged me to work hard and become a good citizen because being that way would take me far in life. He set a great example and is my role model."
True to his word, Modry is following in dad's footsteps. At the time of his trade to the Flyers, the Kings were in last place in the Western Conference, but Modry somehow managed a plus-2 rating through 61 games. The veteran of 13 seasons has been nominated for this season's Masterton Trophy for his ability to play the game at such a high level despite his situation back home.
"It's a great honor to be nominated and shows that I must have did something right out there," Modry said. "I must have showed them that my presence and hard work made a difference."
Modry has also become a calming influence along the blue line for the Flyers in his 10 games since the trade, averaging a little more than 18 minutes and 23.5 shifts per game.
"Jaroslav is a thinking man's player out there," Flyers winger Mike Knuble
said. "He's not very loud and demanding, but a very smart hockey player. I never met him before he came to the Flyers, but that's something you notice right away."
Modry has always enjoyed the camaraderie among teammates in the dressing room.
"When you lay it out on the line, you are also playing for the guy right next to you," Modry said. "When you look into your teammates' eyes, you want to be able to say that you will go all out every single time you step on the ice. I want him to know I am battling for him as much as I'm battling for myself. It's just the greatest feeling in the world when, after a victory, you can sit in the locker room with your teammates, all beat up, and realize this is what it's all about. It sounds funny, but money can't buy that feeling."
Modry, who was a father-figure to rookie defenseman Jack Johnson
in Los Angeles, is now becoming a valuable mentor in Philadelphia.
"You can't play this game without passion and, personally, I don't know how much longer I'm even going to be playing," Modry said. "For me, every game and every practice is always special. Whenever I step on the ice, I look at it like this is the day and this is my challenge and I'll try and enjoy the moment. I take great pride in preparation and even teaching the young kids to respect the game. That's the way I was taught so that's the only way I know how to play."
Modry, 37, met his U.S.-born wife, Jodi, while playing in the minor leagues and they have three children; Jacob, 9, Alexa, 7, and Luc, 4. They also own a home in the Czech Republic and dad makes it a point to take his children there each summer to spend time with their grandparents and learn the heritage and, perhaps, a few of life's lessons that have transformed him into the positive influence he is today.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.