Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blast from the Past: Czech Mates

Rememer the days of the Euro Sens, back when the team was almost half Europeans, and half North Americans? I do. The 1995-96 season was the last time the Senators missed the playoffs, and began the Jacques Martin era--a time of a lot of lesser-known European players performing beyond expectations in a defensive style which made Don Beaupre, Ron Tugnutt, and Damian Rhodes look like NHL All-Stars.

The poster above commemorates the Senators' European experiment, which has been largely abandoned by current GM Bryan Murray in favour of North American flavour to the team. Three players hailing from the relatively small Czech Republic played big minutes for the Senators that year: Martin Straka, Radek Bonk, and Stanislav Neckar.

Although Straka would be traded during that year to the New York Islanders (in the deal that brought Wade Redden to Ottawa), he would manage to score nine goals and 16 assists in his 43 games in the Ottawa uniform.

Bonk would have a much ore illustrious (or at least longer) career with the Senators, and is one of only three players from that 1995-96 team still active in the NHL (along with Pavol Demitra and Daniel Alfredsson; Straka remains unsigned). Bonkers would score 35 points (16G, 19A) in 76 games in '95-96. He played with the Sens until the great collapse of 2003-04, which coincidentally was the season that marked the end of the Martin era in Ottawa. In 689 career games, Bonk had 152G, 247A, 399P, 401PM and in the playoffs scored 9G and 15A in 61GP.

Neckar played his first five seasons in Ottawa, scoring 6G and 16A in 198 games, but was traded in 1998-99 for playoff rental (and bust) Bill Berg. He finished his career going through four more teams, playing another 312 NHL games (510 total, scoring 53 points in his career).

One short chapter in Senators history.
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