Hall of Famer Zabrodsky passes
by Andrew Podnieks|20 MAR 2020
Vladimir Zabrodsky shows his Czech jersey for his 90th anniversary at his home in Stockholm during the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the city.
photo: Vit Simanek / CTK / AP / Keystone
Vladimir Zabrodsky, an inaugural member of the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997, died in Stockholm, Sweden today on Friday, 20 March. He was 97. 

Zabrodsky was not only a world-class hockey player but also almost as famous for his tennis career. He won two gold medals at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and played in two Olympics, but he also played in the Davis Cup on three occasions for Czechoslovakia.

Born in Prague, Vladimir and his brother, Oldrich, played for LTC Prague (Lawn Tennis Cercle Prague). Vladimir Zabrodsky ended up on a line with Stanislav Konopasek and Vaclav Rizinak, and this trio played together for the three greatest tournaments in the country’s history, winning gold at the 1947 World Championship, silver at the 1948 Olympics, and gold again at the ’49 Worlds. Zabrodsky captained the last two of these teams.

Zabrodsky was a natural scorer, and the 1947 Worlds was his crowning achievement. It was the first major international event since the 1939 tournament, and although Canada was absent the Czechoslovaks were dominant. They won six of seven games, losing only to Sweden, 2-1, and won gold. The team scored 85 goals in these games, a record 26 coming from Zabrodsky alone. 

He scored 12 goals in a single game, in a 24-0 win over Belgium (including a record-tying five in the third period), and eight more in a 23-1 win over Romania.
Vladimir Zabrodsky (middle) on the Czechoslovak team that won gold at the 1947 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Prague.
photo: IIHF Archive
A year later, at the Olympics in St. Moritz, Zabrodsky was again dominant. The Czechoslovaks won silver behind Canada. Both teams had identical 7-1-0 records thanks to a scoreless tie when the teams faced each other, but Canada won gold because of a superior goal ratio. Captain Zabrodsky, however, scored 23 of his team’s 80 goals, including hat tricks in six of his team’s eight games.

Zabrodsky was captain again in 1949, when Sweden hosted the World Championship for the first time. He scored the first goal of the medal round in a monumental 3-2 win over Canada, and then scored the game-winning goal on the final day, a 3-0 win over the hosts that gave Czechoslovakia a historic gold medal.

Interestingly, it was during these years that the Soviets started to take an interest in ice hockey and move away from bandy, and Zabrodsky was one of the players selected by the Czechoslovaks to teach them how to play under a program directed by Josef Stalin’s son, Vasili.

This golden age of Czechoslovak hockey ended tragically in 1950 prior to the World Championship in London. The Communist government suspected players of trying to defect during the tournament and pulled the team from competition. Most players were charged and convicted of treason and sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Zabrodsky was the only one who wasn’t. Instead, he was merely banned from the national team for a period of time. 

He did play in the 1954 and ’55 Worlds and the Cortina Olympics in ’56, winning a bronze in ’55 with a far lesser team than the one he led during the immediate post-war years.

In national league play, Zabrodsky played more than a decade with LTC Prague as well as several years with TJ Spartak towards the end of his career. 

On the tennis court, Zabrodsky represented Czechoslovakia at the 1948, 1955, and 1956 Davis Cup. He had a 5-5 record in combined singles and doubles. In singles, his finest moment came in the first round in 1955 when he won two matches against Belgium. 
Hockey players represented Czechoslovakia in the 1948 David Cup against Brazil, from left to right: Karel Kozeluh, Jaroslav Drobny and Vladimir Zabrodsky.
photo: IIHF Archive
In doubles, he played alongside hockey teammate Jaroslav Drobny once, in 1948 against Brazil, beating Manoel Fernandes and Ernesto Petersen 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. His more common doubles partner was the highly-accomplished young Jiri Javorsky. The two played four times in 1955 and ’56 and had a 2-2 record.

Zabrodsky defected to Sweden in 1965 under dire and dramatic circumstances. Using fake passports, he managed to escape with his family through Hungary, Yugoslavia, and on to his brother in Switzerland. Oldrich had managed to leave and play the last years of his career in Lausanne.

Vladimir made his way to Stockholm and lived there the rest of his life. He coached club teams Leksand, Djurgarden, and Rogle between 1965 and 1971, after which he returned to tennis as a coach. Oldrich pre-deceased Vladimir in 2015.