23 December 1964|
4 May 2023 (aged 58)|
Chomutov, Czech Republic
|Height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Weight||183 lb (83 kg; 13 st 1 lb)|
HC Litvínov |
HC Dukla Jihlava
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
PSG Berani Zlín
Los Angeles Kings
86th overall, 1983|
Detroit Red Wings
Petr Klíma (23 December 1964 – 4 May 2023) was a Czech professional ice hockey forward. He played in the National Hockey League for the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins between 1985 and 1999. Internationally Klíma played for the Czechoslovakian national team at the 1983, winning silver, and 1984 World Junior Championships, winning bronze, and the 1991 Canada Cup.
Early career and defection
By the time Klíma was 20 years old, officials on his HC Dukla Jihlava team knew that the Detroit Red Wings were eager to bring the young star to the NHL. Rumors were rampant that the Wings were trying to pay off Czechoslovak authorities to get Klíma out of his native country, but despite all the hype that surrounded him, Czechoslovak hockey authorities made no real effort to clamp down and prevent Klíma from traveling in Europe. As a result, Klíma managed to defect to North America during the summer of 1985, making him the first Czech player to defect directly to a U.S.-based team rather than one of the NHL's Canadian teams which had smuggled several Czechs and Slovaks out of Europe in the past.
Klima's bold move was entirely orchestrated by the Red Wings, who knew that Klíma was eager to play in North America. After his defection was planned, Klíma ditched his Czechoslovak national teammates during a team meal at the Czechoslovak training camp in Nußdorf am Inn, West Germany, to join Wings executive vice-president Jim Lites and assistant coach Nick Polano at an undisclosed location on 18 August 1985. Several days were then spent in the effort to bring Klíma to North America, after Lites and Polano, who had flown to Germany on 15 August 1985, kept Klíma under wraps in Nussdorf and other cities to avoid pursuit by Czechoslovak police. Polano stayed with Klíma as Lites and other Wings officials arranged for him to gain refugee status to enter the United States. The Wings were assisted by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen in expediting the political asylum process.
It was later revealed that plans to get Klíma out of Czechoslovakia reached back as far as the 1984 World Junior Championships, held in Sweden, when Detroit scout Alex Davidson secretly met with Klíma in December 1983. Klíma told Davidson he would not consider defecting until he had completed his military duty (so as not to be labeled a deserter) in 1985. Less than a year later, at the 1984 Canada Cup, Klíma began talking to the Wings about the possibility of coming to the NHL after the 1984–85 season. During that time, while in Vancouver with the Czechoslovak team, he even signed a secret multiyear contract with the Red Wings. Klíma, who spoke no English when he finally arrived in Detroit on 22 September 1985, was fortunate that the Red Wings also managed to bring his girlfriend to the U.S. In honor of his successful defection, a grateful and overjoyed Klíma requested sweater number 85 and wore it throughout his NHL career as a reminder of the year in which he gained freedom.
NHL playing career
Klíma played four full seasons with the Wings (from 1985 until 1989) before being traded during the 1989–90 season to the Oilers (along with Joe Murphy, Adam Graves, and Jeff Sharples) for Jimmy Carson, Kevin McClelland, and a fifth round draft pick in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Klima scored the game-winning goal in the longest Stanley Cup Finals game in history, in the third overtime of Game 1 of the 1990 Finals against Andy Moog of the Boston Bruins despite having not played at all in the third period, nor the first two OT periods. He played for the Oilers until 1993, winning the Stanley Cup in 1990. In 1993 Klima was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for future considerations; Klíma remained with the Lightning for three seasons, until 1996. He split the 1996–97 season between the Lumberjacks, Kings, Penguins, and Oilers, and was released in 1997. He played in the DEL in 1997–98, then attempted a comeback with the Red Wings in 1998. He retired from the NHL in 1999, and then played two seasons in years 2001–2003 in the Czech league before retiring for good. He played for Litvinov and captained those 2 years. Asked which jersey number he wanted to wear, Klíma chose the number 85 in recognition of the year of his defection and his first year in the NHL.
Klíma's disciplinary woes
Although he was one of Detroit's bigger stars in the late 1980s, Klíma was also a problem for the Red Wings management. That situation came to a head during training camp on 23 September 1988, when Detroit suspended Klíma indefinitely, along with Bob Probert, for breaking team rules. At the time of the suspension, the Wings said they would trade Klíma, although this never happened. The team also said it would not take Klíma back until he had his drinking under control. As a result, Klíma missed the start of the 1988–89 season before being reinstated on 13 October, and sent to Adirondack (AHL) on 16 October. He finally made his 1988–89 NHL regular season debut during Detroit's 6 November, game versus the Edmonton where he posted an assist. At his first practice with the team, on 5 November, Klíma offered a heartfelt apology to his Wings teammates for his earlier behavior, much of which was alcohol-related. During his months back, Klíma roomed with Probert, who was also trying to cope with his drinking and drug habits. Klíma managed to stay clean, but Probert's substance abuse and subsequent issues would continue for several years.
Personal life and death
Klíma's father Joseph was also a hockey player, who played internationally for Czechoslovakia. Klíma was married, and with his wife Irina had twin sons, Kelly and Kevin. Both Kelly and Kevin are hockey players, and signed one-year contracts with the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League in 2018. At the time of Petr's death, Kelly was playing in the Czech Republic.
Regular season and playoffs
|1981–82||TJ CHZ Litvínov||CSSR||18||7||3||10||8||—||—||—||—||—|
|1982–83||TJ CHZ Litvínov||CSSR||44||19||17||36||74||—||—||—||—||—|
|1983–84||ASD Dukla Jihlava||CSSR||41||20||16||36||46||—||—||—||—||—|
|1984–85||ASD Dukla Jihlava||CSSR||35||23||22||45||76||—||—||—||—||—|
|1985–86||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||74||32||24||56||16||—||—||—||—||—|
|1986–87||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||77||30||23||53||42||13||1||2||3||4|
|1987–88||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||78||37||25||62||46||12||10||8||18||10|
|1988–89||Adirondack Red Wings||AHL||5||5||1||6||4||—||—||—||—||—|
|1988–89||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||51||25||16||41||44||6||2||4||6||19|
|1989–90||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||13||5||5||10||6||—||—||—||—||—|
|1993–94||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||75||28||27||55||76||—||—||—||—||—|
|1994–95||AC ZPS Zlín||CZE||1||1||0||1||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|1994–95||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||47||13||13||26||26||—||—||—||—||—|
|1995–96||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||67||22||30||52||68||4||2||0||2||14|
|1996–97||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||8||0||4||4||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||Adirondack Red Wings||AHL||15||2||6||8||8||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||13||1||0||1||4||—||—||—||—||—|
|World Junior Championships|
|1983 Soviet Union|
|European Junior Championships|
- Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League champion – 1983–84, 1984–85
- Stanley Cup champion – 1990 He scored the game winning goal while injured
- "Petr Klima". Hockey Draft Central.
- Pinchevsky, Tal (27 August 2013). "Chapter 3: The Beginning of the Czech-sodus". Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL--The Untold Story of Hockey's Great Escapes (eBook). Harper Collins. pp. 93–107. ISBN 9781443429689. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
- James, Helene St. (4 October 2022). "22. Czech Mate". On the Clock: Detroit Red Wings: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft (Paperback ed.). Triumph Books. pp. 178–184. ISBN 9781629379852.
- "Groundbreaking Former NHL Star Petr Klima Dies at 58". Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Baker, Chris (13 November 1985). "Red Wing Left Wing Winged It: Czech Petr Klima's Move to Detroit Is a Tale of Intrigue". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2023. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
- "PLAYERS; DEFECTOR MAKES QUICK JUMP TO N.H.L." The New York Times. 24 September 1985. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Tyler, Paul (4 May 2023). "Remembering former Detroit Red Wings forward Petr Klima - Detroit Sports Nation". detroitsportsnation.com. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Holmes, Dan (31 January 2016). "The defection of Petr Klima was like a bad spy novel, but Red Wings got their man". Vintage Detroit Collection. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Podnieks, Andrew. "Klima passes away at 58". IIHF International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Sexton, Joe (16 May 1990). "Klima's Goal in 3d Overtime Wins Cup Opener for Oilers". The New York Times.
- Janicek, Karel. "Stanley Cup-winning Czech forward Petr Klima dies at 58". AP News. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Trade brings Klima to attack". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Lightning deals Klima to Kings". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Pinchevsky 2012, pp. 101–106
- "Petr Klima Stats and News". NHL.com. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Legendary Stanley Cup Champion Dies at 58, Leaving Lasting Impact on Hockey". Markerzone.com. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Smith, Jim (22 March 1989). "Red Wings Are Having Their Best Season in Years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Pinchevsky 2012, p. 71
- Pinchevsky 2012, p. 109
- "Roadrunners Sign Klima Twins to One-Year Contracts". tucsonroadrunners.com. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- "Šokující zpráva. V pouhých 58 letech zemřel legendární Petr Klíma" (in Czech). iSport.cz. 4 May 2023. Retrieved 4 May 2023.