Hall of Famer Suchy passes
by Andrew Podnieks|24 AUG 2021
Jan Suchy was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame.
photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
Jan Suchy, arguably the finest defencemen ever produced by Czechoslovakia, died today, 24 August. He died in Havlickuv Brod, his city of birth, at the age of 76. 

Suchy was inducted into the Czech Hall of Fame in 2008 and the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009 in honour of a career in the 1960s and ‘70s that included seven international medals in eight tournaments. As well, he starred on Dukla Jihlava in domestic league competition for many years.

"Fate did not give him a gold medal at the World Championship or a career in the NHL, yet he belongs to the golden generation of our hockey history,” said Tomas Kral, president of the Czech Ice Hockey Association. “With his style of play, bold shot blocking and incredible offence, he was several decades ahead of his time and became a role model for fans at home and abroad.”

“Souska” was born in 1944, and although he was also a fine footballer he chose to move to Dukla in 1963 at the age of 19 to pursue hockey. He was quickly partnered on the blue line with Ladislav Smid, a traditional defensive defenceman, and the partnership allowed Suchy to do what he did best – play a skating, attacking game. Although he could defend with the best of them, he preferred to skate up ice and help create offence, and thus he was often called the Bobby Orr of European hockey. He could do it all – skate, shoot, pass, and play physically.

Indeed, Suchy won the scoring title in the Czechoslovak league in 1968/69, a feat no other defenceman has done before or since.

During his 16 seasons with Dukla, playing with his good friend Jiri Holik almost the entire time, the team won seven national championships, and at the end of his career Suchy played briefly in Austria and Germany. 

Like all great European players of his generation, his hockey season ended with the World Championship. Suchy represented CSSR on eight occasions, including the 1968 Olympics in Chamonix, when the Czechs won a silver medal. He played at the Worlds seven times – 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1974 – winning four silver and two bronze medals.
Jan Suchy (top row, 4th from left) on the Czechoslovak team for the 1968 Olympic Winter Games.
photo: Keystone/CTK/Zdenek Havelka
During his international career Suchy was named to the tournament all-star team four years in a row – 1968-71 and was named IIHF Directorate Best Defenceman twice, in 1969 and 1971. 

Suchy was not shy to be his own person. He happily admitted to enjoying a beer and cigarette after the game, and sometimes a shot of alcohol before the game to get the blood flowing. In 1971, he was charged with driving under the influence after a car accident and was sentenced to nine months in prison. But he served the time and after being released continued his stellar career. This violation, however, forced him to miss the 1972 World Championship when the Czechs defeated the Soviets to win an historic gold medal.

Rumours had it that Suchy had an opportunity to defect to the West during a World Championship and play with the Detroit Red Wings, but he passed up the chance because his wife didn’t want to leave her family behind and he wasn’t going to leave the Communist Iron Curtain without her.

Suchy was, plain and simple, one of the pre-eminent players of his era, and his loss recalls a time when the Czechoslovaks were among the greatest players in the world in IIHF competition. 

There will be a minute of silence observed in his memory before tonight’s pre-season Czech-league game between Dukla Jihlava and BK Havlickuv Brod, two clubs that forged a lifelong bond with the great player.