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Miroslav Ihnacak
Miroslav Ihnacak
Left Wing
Number: 35
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 175
Shoots:
Born: Feb 19, 1962
Birthplace: Poprad, Czech Republic
Acquired: Signed as a free agent by Detroit on November 18, 1988.
Drafted: TOR / 1982 NHL Entry Draft
Round: 9th (171st overall)
A much anticipated talent after his defection from Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Ihnacak never fulfilled the promise of the reports that came from overseas. He was blessed with speed and natural offensive instincts which were demonstrated clearly in Europe and the minor leagues but did not translate to the North American game.

Born in Poprad, Czechoslovakia, Ihnacak learned the game playing on a frozen river or the open air rink used by the local second division club. He play impressed fans with the Czechoslovakian entry at the 1979 European Junior Championships when he was placed on the tournament all-star team. Ihnacak played four and a half seasons with VSZ Kosice in the Czechoslovakian league where he became known all over the country. In 1984-85, he led the league in scoring with 66 points in 43 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Ihnacak 171st overall in 1982 just in case they were able to get him out of the country at some point. After his brother, Peter, defected in 1982, 19-year-old Miroslav was forbidden to play in any tournaments outside Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union. Consequently, North American scouts were unfamiliar with his play and had only the reports of the Czechoslovak observers. In addition, Ihnacak's development as a player was stunted by a lack of access to top level competition.

The younger Ihnacak defected part way through the 1985-86 season and joined Toronto just before Christmas. He arrived in Toronto with much fanfare, as much because of his odyssey to gain personal freedom as his ability. Toronto officials refused to divulge the specifics of the trip from Bratislava to North America, via Vienna, Austria. Suffice to say much of the nearly $200,000 cost of the arrangements took the form of bribing people for assistance.

Ihnacak showed glimpses of his potential and scored a goal in his first game playing on a line with his brother, Peter, and another Czech, Miroslav Frycer. The honeymoon was short-lived, however, as he seemed uncertain around the net and totally helpless defensively and ended up spending more time in the minors than at the NHL level. He struggled to adjust to the pro game and often appeared dejected and unmotivated with Toronto's AHL farm teams in St. Catharines and Newmarket.

The Detroit Red Wings signed him as a free agent early in the 1988-89 season. Ihnacak played one last NHL game with the Wings that year before starting a fine three-year run in the AHL. He recorded 105 goals in three minor pro seasons split between the Adirondack Red Wings and Halifax Citadels before returning to Europe.

Ihnacak played in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic before heeding home to VSZ Kosice, now a Slovakian team playing in the Czech elite division. During this period he played one more game in North America with the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals. In 1995 he scored seven goals in eight games for Slovakia at the World Championships "B" Pool which they won to qualify for the "A" Pool.

Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame

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