After Miroslav Frycer scored three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in just his second NHL game, Toronto had to have him.
And they got him. Frycer didn’t even finish his first season with the Quebec Nordiques before he was moving 500 miles west to Toronto.
But that move was nothing compared to the nearly 4,000 miles Frycer traveled from the Czech Republic to Quebec for his NHL debut. Before crossing the pond, Frycer played for the Czech national team and HC Vitkovice. The forward also played in the World Championships where his team was the runner-up in 1979, placed third in 1981 and took fifth-place at Lake Placid in 1980.
Then it was time for the big leagues. Frycer began his NHL career with the Nordiques in 1981. His first game in the Quebec Coliseum was against the Leafs, where his hat trick in a 6-4 victory impressed Toronto’s management. He was on his way to Maple Leaf Gardens before the season was over.
Frycer proved his value quickly in Toronto. With less than one-minute left in a tie game against the St. Louis Blues, the Leafs were on the verge of being eliminated from Stanley Cup contention. Toronto head coach Mike Nykoluk pulled his goaltender from the game and sent newcomer Frycer onto the ice as a sixth attacker.
With the seconds winding down, Frycer lined up for a faceoff. He won the battle and skated into range. The shot rimmed around the rink.
It found its mark.
The game-winning goal wasn’t too bad for a player who was still adjusting to a new language and type of game. Between Quebec’s AHL affiliate, the Nordiques and Toronto, Frycer was also playing for his third team in just one season. The Leafs didn’t extend their season much farther after the dramatic win over the Blues, but Frycer had made his point. And he would have many more opportunities to do so.
Frycer was the only Toronto player to represent the Campbell Conference in the 1985 All-Star Game and helped make Leafs’ history the following year. Toronto set a the record in Maple Leaf Gardens for the most goals scored in a single game in a 11-9 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. It was one of Frycer’s best moments wearing blue and white.
“It’s my best night as a Leaf,” Frycer told the Montreal Gazette after the 1986 game. “Ninety percent of those guys (Oilers) are superstars, so it’s nice to score a few goals against them.”
A few is modest. Frycer scored four of his team’s 11 goals – just a few.
Two seasons after John Brophy was named the head coach of Toronto, Frycer was traded to Detroit to play for legendary head coach Jacques Demers. With Demers in charge, the Red Wings had beaten Toronto and Frycer in back-to-back Stanley Cup playoffs. In 1987, Detroit won a 7-game series against Toronto to reach the conference finals for the first time since the league’s expansion. The Wings also beat Toronto in the division finals the following season, eventually returning to the conference finals.
With Frycer now dressed in red and white, he had the opportunity to be on the other side of the rivalry. And he took full advantage of it.
In his first trip back to Toronto wearing the winged wheel, Frycer contributed two goals to an 8-2 victory for the Wings. It was one of the 23 games Frycer would play in for Detroit before he was traded to the Oilers. Frycer finished the 1988-89 campaign appearing in 14 games for the Oilers before retiring from the NHL. The forward had scored 147 goals and contributed 330 points over his eight professional seasons.
After his retirement, Frycer decided to return to Europe where he played for EHC Freiburg in Germany for two seasons. His final retirement as a player came after the 1990-91 season. But he wasn’t done with hockey, yet.
Frycer started coaching after his playing days were over, spending 14 of the next 18 years coaching teams such as the HC Havirov, EV Bruneck, HC Meran, SV Ritten, HC Vitkovice and SG Crotina. In 2010, he was named the head of player development for the Dixie Beehives, a junior ice hockey team in Toronto.
It’s a position that Frycer currently holds and after spending most of his life around hockey, it’s probably one he doesn’t plan on giving up anytime soon.