Passion for hockey remains for Rucinsky
Former NHLer delivers equipment to children in native Czech Republic
Martin Rucinsky can understand why his former NHL teammates Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund have decided to reunite with Modo, 17 seasons after they were teammates with their hometown Swedish club.
The 38-year-old Rucinsky is two years removed from his last game in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, but he still is having a blast playing at a high level with the HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga.
"I read about them playing together on the internet. I think it's great," said Rucinsky on Tuesday after he helped deliver 75 sets of hockey equipment to children in his native Czech Republic as part of the NHLPA's decade-long anniversary celebration of its Goals and Dreams program that will donate equipment to grassroots players on a 10-country, 10-day trip.
Rucinsky, Naslund and Forsberg are all linked to the 1991 NHL entry draft, when Forsberg was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers sixth overall, Naslund was chosen 10 positions later by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Rucinsky was chosen 20th overall by the Edmonton Oilers.
Later in their careers, Forsberg played alongside Rucinsky with the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche and Rucinsky briefly was a teammate with Naslund on the Vancouver Canucks.
"I played with Peter and I played with Markus as well and both are obviously great players," Rucinsky said. "I'm glad to hear they are going back to the same team to play again after all these years. To play at home again is a nice experience."
Rucinsky played with the Oilers, Nordiques, Avalanche, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Canucks and Blues. He continues to play because he's still having fun.
"When I was younger, say around 25, I said I would never be playing at this age," Rucinsky said. "But I'm still having fun. It's still nice to come to the rink every morning for practice, I still like to play in games and it's always fun to be around the guys in the dressing room."
Rucinsky doesn't know when he will retire from action, but he was interested in the news that Brendan Shanahan packed it in on Tuesday after unable to find an NHL roster spot to prolong his career to a 22nd season.
"I obviously played against him a long time and there is no question about it that he is a heck of a hockey player," Rucinsky said. "He was a scoring machine and a big-game player. It's a big loss for the game. I feel fortunate to having played against him. Hands down, he was one of the best players I played against."
Of course, Rucinsky and Shanahan were involved in the 1998 Olympic semifinal shootout between the Czechs and Canada. After Robert Reichel scored the only goal of the shootout, Rucinsky's backhand was stopped by Canadian goalie Patrick Roy.
Shanahan was the last of five Canadian shooters who failed to beat Dominik Hasek, giving the Czechs a spot in the final against Russia, which the Czechs were victorious in with a 1-0 win.
Rucinsky's Olympic run ends
Rucinsky stated there is too much young talent in his homeland that he has to beat out to land a spot on the 2010 Czech Olympic team. This will end his run of competing in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Games.
On Tuesday, Rucinsky helped distribute 75 sets of equipment to children in the Sparta Praha and Litvinov hockey programs. He grew up in the Litvinov system and will finish his career with the Sparta Praha.
"That was a cool day," he said. "The kids were so excited. It was special for me to give the kids a day like this in the two programs that I have played with over here."
The Goals and Dreams program is funded by members of the NHLPA and is the largest grassroots hockey program in the world.
Since its inception in November 1999, the program has donated more than $17 million US to grassroots programs in 22 different countries and more than 40,000 children.
- In an eariler version of this story we said that Rucinsky, Naslund and Forsberg were all linked to the 2000 NHL Draft, instead of the 1991 Draft as is noted now. We apologize for the error.Nov 17, 2009 8:30 PM ET