Saturday

Petr Klima

Edmonton Sun reporter Terry Jones perhaps said it best about Petr Klima when he said "Petr Klima is 32 years old, played 12 years in the NHL and has never broken a sweat."

Klima was a tremendously talented left winger who played in 773 NHL games, scoring 312 goals and 260 assists for the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite his breathtaking skating ability, marvelous hands and cannon-like shot, Klima was a lazy player who was too satisfied with decent offensive numbers when he could have posted superstar statistics.

Klima defected from his native Czechoslovakia in 1985 at the age of 21. In honor of gaining his freedom from the Iron Curtain in that year, Klima wore jersey number 85 throughout his NHL career. However Klima, who grew up in relative poverty in communist Czechoslovakia, quickly became enthralled by life in North America. With big money contracts and fast cars, Klima had achieved greater freedom than he may had thought was possible when he was a kid. Perhaps his new found freedom distracted him from focusing completely on hockey. Klima has always been criticized for being too laid back and even lazy to achieve the status that his god given talents should have gotten him.

Klima, who wore a very unusual helmet which Don Cherry insisted was designed to protect his fancy hair-do, played his first 4 seasons in the Motor City with Detroit. He was a consistent 30 goal man in his tenure with the Wings, with his best year being 1987-88 when he scored 37 times. He would also explode in the playoffs to lead the Wings with 10 goals in just 12 games.

Klima would score a career high 40 goals in 1990-91 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Late in 1989 Klima was packaged in a significant deal that saw Klima, Joe Murphy, Adam Graves and Jeff Sharples traded to the Oilers in exchange for Detroit native Jimmy Carson and long time Oiler Kevin McClelland.

With the exception of an injury shortened 1991-92 season, Klima continued to be a consistent 30 goal threat. However come playoff time Klima was used sparingly. The Oilers felt that his fragile body wasn't conducive to NHL playoff conditions and he was, as always, a defensive liability. However Klima's biggest moment came in the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, specifically game 1. The Oilers were facing ex-Oiler Andy Moog and the Boston Bruins and the all important opening game went into double overtime. Even as the game reached the second overtime, Edmonton coach John Muckler kept Klima sitting on the bench for almost the entire game. Klima finally got a chance to play in the second overtime as the Oilers were forced to use him in order to get some fresh legs on the ice. Klima proceeded to wire a shot past an off-balanced Moog. The Oilers won the first game and went on to defeat the Boston Bruins in 5 games to capture their 5th Cup in 7 years.

Klima was traded to Tampa Bay where he played for 3 seasons before bouncing around the league and the minors his last two seasons. He made a 16 game comeback with the Oilers in 1997 and tried to make a comeback with the Red Wings in 1998-99 but failed to make the team

Klima also played hockey in Germany following is NHL days. He first got a taste of hockey in Germany during the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95 when the talented winger lit up German Second Division with 27 goals in just 12 games. Klima found Germany's best league a little tougher however. In 38 games with Krefeld Peinguine Klima scored only 7 goals and 19 points.

Petr made a comeback of sorts in 1998-99. Klima signed a minor league contract with the Red Wings and played 15 games in the AHL. Klima did get a recall for 12 NHL games while the Wings battled some injury woes. Klima stepped in and scored 1 goal in those 12 games.

6 comments:

LoneWolfArcher 9:16 AM  

Awesome! My all time favorite player in any sport.

#85!

I wonder what he is doing these days. I know he used to stil live in the Tampa area.

LoneWolfArcher 9:18 AM  

Awesome, my all time favorite player in any sport.

#85!

I wonder what he is doing these days. I know he used to still live in Tampa.

Today's player lacks charisma like Klima and his contemporaries had.

Anonymous,  12:13 AM  

I watched him play in Detroit. When he was in the mood to play, no one in hockey could have beaten him to the puck. Awesome agility, could stop, start, and change direction faster than anyone I've ever seen in the game. Trouble was, he had to be in the mood.

jgillis29@gmail.com 5:15 PM  

Was fortunate that I got to skate with him in the summers of 86 and 87. I will never forget the little contest we had... on demand he hit the elbow that made up the crossbar and goalpost from center ice...yes on the fist try. Such a talent I just wish he was not such an under achiever!!

VT 9:28 AM  

scHe was my favorite player in high school and college even though I was a Rangers fan.. He had amazing talent and could have been an all star every year.. According to Jimmy Devellano, he was an elite talent but uncoachable. I saw him skate around Paul Coffey like he was standing still.. The guy could play..

Oksana 12:06 PM  

Hey Jim, those were the days at the Detroit Skating Club. We had a great crew and had plenty of good times. Petr was a party animal like the rest of us. No wonder he couldn't live up to his potential. As far as his shot goes, yeah it was wicked and accurate. I should know I was the goalie he usually shot against. Gary Green

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