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Miroslav Frycer
Miroslav Frycer
Center
Number: 14
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 200
Shoots:
Born: Sep 27, 1959
Birthplace: Ostrava, Czech Republic
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Acquired: Traded to Detroit by Toronto for Darren Veitch on June 10, 1988.
In October 1981, Miroslav Frycer played his first match on home ice against Toronto. His performance was outstanding, and he even managed to overshadow the Stastny brothers when the Nordiques won by a score of 6-4. Frycer scored three of those goals and was named the game's star. The next day, a Toronto paper proclaimed in a one-inch headline "Four Czechs are too much for Leafs." It was true except for the fact that the Stastny brothers were Slovaks. The only Czech on the team was Miroslav Mirko Frycer, also known later as "Frigo" (the Czech nickname for comic Buster Keaton). His debut on home ice and his second NHL game made such an impression on the Maple Leafs management that next spring he left Quebec for Toronto, where he wore number 14 for the next few seasons.

In a game on March 17, 1981, Frycer faced his old team and this time the results were reversed. The final score was 6-3 for Toronto and the architect of the victory was none other than Miroslav Frycer. Journalists flocked around the Toronto rookie in the dressing room.

One week later, on March 24, 1981, Frycer pulled another rabbit out of the hat. In a game that had them on the verge of being eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, the Leafs had to beat the St. Louis Blues. It was tied 3-3 and the clock was ticking away on the Leafs. Less than a minute remained in regulation play.

Fighting the odds, coach Mike Nykoluk took a gamble and pulled his goaltender, an unusual move in a tied situation. Miroslav Frycer appeared on the ice, and Toronto tensed up for the faceoff in the Blues' zone. Winning control of the puck, Frycer skated with it almost to the far boards. When he got within shooting distance, he let go a shot and scored the winning goal at least in that game. In the series, Toronto held on for a few more days but finally gave in to the stronger team.

In the 1982-83 season, another defenseman, Czech Vitezslav Duris, returned to the team, making a considerable Czech colony playing for Toronto in the 1980s. The oldest of the Stastny brothers, Marian, appeared on the team for one season, as did the Czech-speaking defenseman Rick Lanz, and later even Peter Ihnacak's brother Miroslav. The first Czech to wear a Toronto jersey, however, had been goaltender Jiri Crha, who joined the Maple Leafs in 1979.

Frycer can legitimately take his place as one of Toronto's best players. In 1985 he was the only Toronto player chosen to represent the Campbell Conference in the All-Star Game. In a game against Edmonton on January 8, 1986, that ended with an incredible score of 11-9, four of the Leafs goals were once again scored by Miroslav Frycer. After the game, even Wayne Gretzky referred to Frycer as a great hockey player.

It's no secret that the end of his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs came with the arrival of coach John Brophy. What started as a fairly good relationship quickly deteriorated, with his technical play, Frycer couldn't get along with Brophy at all and was even accused of leading a mutiny against him. Shortly after that he was traded to Detroit, where he got along fine with Jacques Demers. During his first great match against Toronto in a Detroit jersey, a big sign appeared on the wall in Maple Leaf Gardens welcoming Frycer back to Toronto and thanking him for all the wonderful moments he had brought his team. All the while a disappointed coach Brophy sat on the bench. After the game, the press conference turned into a sideshow with Frigo as the comedian. He described life with Demers as a day full of sunshine whereas life with Brophy was a dreary, rainy autumn day.

Chronic injuries affected his game in Detroit and his days in the NHL were clearly numbered. But one last trade to Edmonton postponed the inevitable for a while. He retired from the NHL in 1989

Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame

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