Monday, November 26, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jiri Crha

There have been many times where European goalies have under the radar of the NHL general managers and actually got signed to have some so-so results despite their hype. This week's AGM was one of the first guys who were actually involved in such a bidding war. This week, the profile of Jiri Crha.

Before coming over to North America, Crha spent many years over in his native Czechoslovakia; starting with the club team Dukla Jihlava in the 1969-70 and 1970-71 season, playing in 51 total games and posting a 2.42 GAA in those games (no record online).

Beginning in the 1971-72 season and ending in the 1978-79 season, Crha would go on to play with Tesla Pardubice. During that time, Crha also represented the Czechoslovakian team in four World Championships-- winning bronze in 1973 (2-0-0), silver in 1974 (3-1-0), 1975 (0-1-0), and 1978 (1-0-0)-- and during the 1976 Olympics-- winning a silver medal in playing two games.

Crha decided that at age 29 he wanted to move over to North America and try out his hand in the NHL. There was actually a bidding war between the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 1979, in which the Maple Leafs would eventually in out and give him a contract to come over.

The first season in North America, Crha spent most of that adjusting to the North American rinks and style of play by just being the third goalie on the Leafs and watching incumbent goalie Mike Palmateer and talking to Leafs' great Johnny Bower about how to play the NHL style. Mid-season, Crha went to the AHL to play for the New Brunswick Hawks and went 4-1-2 in seven games. When Palmateer went down with injury, Crha was called up to the Leafs and posted a 8-7-0 record in 15 games and 0-2 in the playoffs.

After Palmateer was traded when disagree with Leafs' management, Crha was given the starting role for the 1980-81 season and played in 51 games, compiling a 20-20-11 record for those games and another 0-2 playoff record.

The 1981-82 season had Crha play only two games in the Central League with the Cincinnati Tigers, with a 1-0-0 record, then in the 1982-83 season, Crha played one game with the AHL's St. Catharines Saints with no record to show for it.

Crha went back to Europe following that season, heading over to Germany for the 1983-84 season, playing with SV Bayreuth, then taking a year off in the 1984-85 season, only to return in the 1985-86 season with EHC Freiburg until the 1992-93 season before he would retire.

Crha has stayed in the game, becoming a player agent after his playing career ended. He has represented NHLers like Alex Hemsky and Rostislav Klesla.

The Leafs have been known to bid on free agent talent, some of which panned out and some not. While Crha did well enough during a dark time for the Leafs, they didn't think it was enough and didn't give him a second change for just a .500 goalie. Who knows what they could have done if they gave him a chance to play more, but at his older age-- it may have still been not enough.

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