Ex-Red Wing, Czech defector Miroslav Frycer dead at age 61

Associated Press
Miroslav Frycer

Former Red Wing Miroslav Frycer, who defected from communist Czechoslovakia after playing in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, has died. He was 61.

Frycer died after an unspecified brief illness, the Czech league team Orli Znojmo said on its website Tuesday. Frycer had been the team’s coach since 2018.

Frycer had overcome health problems in the past. He chronicled his recovery from a liver transplant in his autobiography, “My Wild Hockey Life.”

After defecting from Czechoslovakia, Frycer joined the Quebec Nordiques for the 1981-82 NHL season. The 6-0, 200-pound forward was traded to Toronto during his rookie campaign and went on to play six more seasons with the Maple Leafs.

His most productive offensive season came in 1985-86, when he had 32 goals and 43 assists in 73 games with Toronto and played in the 1985 All-Star Game.

The Maple Leafs traded Frycer to Detroit on June 10, 1988 for defenseman Darren Veitch. In his first game back at Maple Leaf Gardens on Dec. 10, 1988, Frycer had two goals against his former teammates. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman had a goal and three assists against the Maple Leafs in that game.

In 23 games under Detroit coach Jacques Demers, Frycer had seven goals and eight assists for 15 points and was minus-4 with 47 minutes in penalties. On Jan. 3, 1989, Frycer was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a 10th-round draft pick (Rick Judson).

The Maple Leafs lauded Frycer on Twitter for a “life dedicated to the game” and his “seven seasons in the blue and white.”

Born in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia on Sept. 27, 1959, Frycer remains among Toronto's career top 50-point scorers. He had 147 goals and 183 assists in 330 NHL games. After his NHL career, Frycer played two seasons in Germany and another in Italy.