International Canucks (Aren't Czechs and Slovaks the Same Thing?)

(Before any bombs get thrown this way, I just want to state that no, they are not. I know this. Heck, I'm wildly happy right now because the Significant Other just brought home a collection of Vaclav Havel plays, and I even know who that is, and so should everyone else. So be cool.)

Here's where we get to the last two nationalities (the "stunt" polls appear tomorrow) in the list. They're lumped together here because of limited options and, frankly, limited playing time for those options. Actually, it's even weirder than you think, because the three choices are all from the Czech Republic with a Slovakian honourable mention, but I couldn't stomach the thought of writing a pun involving the word "Czech". Just... no. Okay?

Here's the three I've narrowed it down to, with three undoubtedly contentious choices:

Petr Nedved

Despite protests from certain corners, Nedved is skilled enough to be included on this list. That he took a couple years to round into form and then demanded a massive raise after a single good season, leaving the team when he didn't get it, doesn't change that. Heck, you could hardly expect someone who defected from a Communist state at 17 to think of RFA status as any sort of serious limit... As said, it took three years, but in that third year, he was fantastic: 38 goals, a +20 rating, and nearly 100 penalty minutes was his coming out party. He's an 8-time 20 goal scorer, helped Canada to a Silver medal at Lillehammer, and eventually brought Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican, and Nathan LaFayette, all solid playoff performers. He gave fans what they wanted for one year, then broke our hearts; but he was still a darn fine player, totaling 122 points in 222 total games played as a Canuck.

Ivan Hlinka

Another case of "what could have been": Hlinka, with defenceman Jiri Bubla, became the first Czech players officially allowed by their government to play in the NHL full time. In doing so, he promptly set a team rookie record by getting 60 points, following that with 63 points in just 65 games the next year. And there's the rub: he followed that by going back home. He only played 65 games in his second year because of recurring back problems, and decided the wear and tear of an NHL schedule with it's massive travel routine and large number of games wasn't worth it. When you hear people moan about "needing a big centre who could score", the 6'3", 220 lbs Hlinka was it; even Pavel Bure only got a share of his record.

Marek Malik

Who the what, now? Seriously, a guy who only played 2 seasons and 147 games for the Canucks? Yep. Because in those 144 games was a +/- rating of +58; a 6'5", 233 lbs behemoth who could keep anyone from approaching the net, and 37 points, a perfectly acceptable number for a third-pairing guy. Plus there's one of the best shootout goals ever, even if he did do it as a Ranger. That Malik's trades to and from Vancouver involved two of the other dozen Czech players the Canucks have ever had is just one of those weird bit of proof that hockey gods love playing trivia games.

There were some tough choices left off this list, including Jiri Bubla, who played 100 games more than his estranged son Jiri Slegr, though Slegr had a bigger impact as a player. Robert Kron could have found his way on the list, pairing with Gary Valk as Vancouver's penalty killing specialists for a couple years. Then there's the Slovakian Pavol Demitra, who picked up 69 points in just 97 games with the Canucks, but also only played 97 games with the Canucks.

Are those folks more deserving? Tell me why, but don't skip the vote!

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