|Born:||Feb 22, 1982||Draft:||2000 Canadiens, 78th Overall|
|Hometown:||Myjava, Czechoslovakia||Position:||Right Wing|
|Known For:||Czech Extraliga Champion (2013)||Shoots:||Right|
|National Team:||Slovakia||Current Status:||Retired|
Jozef Balej (born February 22, 1982) is a former Slovakian ice hockey player, having played his final year in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2005-2006 season. Drafted 78th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Balej returned to the Western Hockey League (WHL) for two more seasons with the Portland Winter Hawks. He experienced a surge in offense, going from 22 goals in 65 games during his rookie season to 51 goals in 65 games during his final year. He joined the Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2002-03 season, recording five goals and 20 points in 56 games during his first year in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Balej made his NHL debut the following season, appearing in four games and finishing with no points and a minus-1 rating. His offense picked up in the AHL as he scored 25 goals and 58 points in 55 games as a member of the Bulldogs. He wouldn’t get a chance to redeem himself in Montreal after being traded to the New York Rangers for forward Alex Kovalev. Balej played in 13 games with the Rangers and recorded his first career NHL goal, finishing the year with five points. After a full year with the Hartford Wolf Pack, he was traded to the Canucks for Fedor Federov.
The Canucks gave him just one game at the NHL level, and he finished with one assist and a plus-1 rating. The remainder of the year was spent in the AHL, where he amassed 14 goals and 29 points in 39 games. After a year in Switzerland and a brief return to the AHL in 2008, Balej was faced with a tough decision to either remain in North America and fight for a roster spot or bring his talents overseas. Balej chose the latter, closing out his final 12 years in the sport with stops in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Germany. He retired at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season as a member of EHC Freiburg.
Jozef Balej Statistics
- CHL Second All-Star Team (2002)
- WHL (West) First All-Star Team (2002)
- AHL All-Star Game (2004)
- Czech Extraliga Silver Medal (2012)
- Slovakian Extraliga Champion (2012)
- Czech Extraliga Champion (2013)