Wednesday

Martin Rucinsky

I remember Martin Rucinsky's debut to North American audiences well. So, too, does Eric Lindros.

It was the 1991 Canada Cup. Rucinsky was this lanky 20 year old kid who the Edmonton Oilers just made a first round selection (20th overall) just weeks before. He was slated to come to North America immediately. I made sure to take note of him in the Czech game against Canada.

Most eyes of course were on another junior player, Eric Lindros. Lindros was easily the best junior player in the world, but this was his first chance to make an impression against the professionals, too.

He certainly left an impression on poor Rucinsky. With a clean hit Lindros sent the skilled winger to the hospital with a broken collarbone and a concussion!

Fortunately we would get to see a lot more of Rucinsky. He had limitations that prevented him from becoming an elite NHL player, but nonetheless he enjoyed a NHL career that nearly spanned 1000 games.

While he worked hard, we were always left wanting a bit more from Rucinsky. Perhaps it was the high draft standing, selected with a pick acquired in the Wayne Gretzky trade, that elevated our expectations. Or perhaps it was because of his impressive skill set that oozed potential. But somehow he was one of those guys who you kept expecting to breakthrough and become a top line player

Instead he became a very solid second line left winger, though inconsistency plague him.. He was blessed with blinding speed and had the hands to handle the puck and make plays while in top gear. He had a laser of a shot and unlike so many Europeans of his time he would shoot often.

Though he had decent size at 6'0" and 200lbs, he was a wiry player who never initiated contact and rarely paid the price of driving to the net through traffic. He was an exciting player on the rush, but in a tight playoff grudge match he could be rendered ineffective.

Rucinsky will best be remembered in the province of Quebec. The Nordiques acquired him from the Oilers after just 2 game played in Edmonton.

He enjoyed his best spell in 1995-96, when he career of 29 and 75 points in a combined 78 with the Avalanche and Canadiens. He struggled in Quebec/Colorado but erupted once he arrived in Montreal.

Acquired as part of the Patrick Roy trade, Rucinsky showed immediate promise by scoring 25 goals and 60 points in 56 games after the early season trade. But he would never materialize into the scoring hero Montreal needed so badly, settling in as a 20 goal, 50 point forward in his 6 years in Montreal.

Though he spent the longest stretch of his career in Montreal, I may always remember him best in New York. Although he only played a couple of seasons in Manhattan, it is with the Rangers that I will perhaps best remember Martin Rucinsky. He was a hit with several countrymen by his side - namely Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Jan Hlavac and Petr Nedved. He was perhaps the least heralded of the group, but he chipped in nicely with totals of 32-78-110 in 136 games.

He also briefly played with Dallas, Vancouver before joining St. Louis to end his NHL career. In the summer of 2008 he ended his career in the NHL by returning home to conclude his playing career with Sparta Prague in the Extraliga.

It is a fitting place for the proud Czech to end his career. Born in Most, Rucinsky always participated with the Czech national team whenever he had the chance. He participated in three Olympics, including in 1998 when he helped the nation win gold. He also helped out in 5 World Championships and in the 1996 World Cup.

In 961 NHL games he scored 241 goals, 371 assists and 612 points. He added 9 goals and 14 points in 37 playoff games, never once coming close to winning the Stanley Cup.

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