There’s a common desire among parents. That is to see their children have a better life than what they themselves had. One with less struggle, and more opportunity.
Frantisek Musil was born in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia on December 17 1964. This was a time when the country was under heavy Soviet influence – where western democracy had been eliminated and the KSC (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) held absolute power. As for hockey, the players were more soldiers in an army and the possibility of pursuing a career outside of their homeland (more specifically North America) was non-existent.
Going back to the late 1970s, fellow Czech and major hockey star in the nation Peter Stastny stood up to the corruption that was rampant surrounding the national team. He was told to keep his mouth shut and his hockey career was threatened. When authorities suspected he may defect, the KGB showed up at his place and overturned every inch in search of evidence. When he eventually did make his escape along with younger brother Anton to play with the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques in August of 1980, there were consequences for the Stastny family who remained behind. The family name was disgraced and older brother Marian’s hockey career was punished – until he himself fled to play in Quebec a year later. So there was understandably great fear in anyone who was under pressure to leave.
In 1983, then North Stars GM Lou Nanne watched a young Musil play in the World Junior Championships and was impressed with what he saw. Being that they couldn’t just hop on a plane to join their NHL club like they do nowadays, using a draft pick on such players was risky business. By then the Stastny brothers had put the Quebec Nordiques on the map – with Peter especially tearing up the NHL – so he took a chance and drafted Musil with the 38th pick in the draft that year.
The North Stars’ GM would spend the next few years trying to convince Musil to defect – which would of course prove to be very difficult. It gave a whole new meaning to the term “stay-at-home defenseman”.
Then in 1986, after numerous failed attempts by Nanne (including forking over $25,000 upfront to the same Czech contact that helped usher the Stastny brothers out from behind the Iron Curtain), Musil’s agent Rich Winter had finally convinced him to defect. Nanne immediately flew to Yugoslavia where Musil was going to be vacationing, and headed to the American Consulate. After some shaky moments, Nanne called home to have both an immediate h1 visa and a contract produced to show Musil had work in America so a passport could be done up. First flying to London, they realized that Musil only had a visa for the States and not for England. So close to being home free, Nanne explained the situation to immigration and they let him through.
Finally after three years, many phone calls and some slick maneuvering, Musil was on his way to Minnesota.
Months later when Nanne went over to Czechoslovakia to watch his son Marty play for the U.S. in the World Junior Championships, he ran in to Miro Schubert – the top Czech hockey official at that time. While Schubert wasn’t pleased with Nanne for “stealing” one of his players, things were smoothed over and it was only about a year later that a deal was struck between the NHL and Czechoslovakia that a player’s rights could be bought to bring him over. This of course was a major turning point in the hockey world.
Frantisek Musil would play 797 regular season games and 42 playoff games over a 14 year NHL career that took him to Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton after his four plus seasons in Minnesota.
But it was while with the Flames that Musil would add to his legacy. On April 9, 1993, son David would be born.
When Frantisek’s playing days were over in 2001, he was hired by the Oilers as a European scout. The family would move home to what is now the Czech Republic – where there would be no fear of consequence thanks to the fall of communism in 1989. And the agreement signed between the nation and the NHL after Musil defected 15 years previous meant that David, who took up hockey like his father, was free to play not only in the family’s homeland but in North America as well. He would take advantage of that freedom in 2009 as he headed for Vancouver to play for the Giants of the WHL. Having that dual citizenship, he played for the Czech Republic in the 2009 and 2011 World Junior Championships.
A young standout defenseman just like his father was, David was drafted by the Oilers 31st overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Being born in as well as playing his junior hockey in Canada, he’s already well accustomed to the North American style of game. There are no armed guards watching over; no secret rendezvous points; no fear of what might happen to family or friends; and no political boundaries to escape for David or any other player across seas dreaming of a career in North America.
David’s NHL career lies in the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, not in those of a communist regime. Along with the Stastny brothers, Frantisek Musil played a major role in opening the door for European players coming over to North America. And assuming he shared that common parental desire of wanting a better life for your kid, it’s fair to say he’s a happy man.
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