In some sad news, the NHL announced last Thursday that Petr Klíma passed away suddenly at the age of 58. In his NHL career, Klima played for five different NHL teams during his career. These included the Detroit Red Wings, the Edmonton Oilers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Perhaps the best-known moment in Klíma’s career is that his goal ended the longest game in Stanley Cup Final history and helped the Oilers win the 1990 Stanley Cup. What is also memorable about that goal is that it was scored as a triple-overtime winner against the Boston Bruins.
Klíma was born on Dec. 23, 1964, in what was then Czechoslovakia. He started his professional career playing for TJ Litvínov before being drafted by the Red Wings in 1983.
Now almost 40 years ago, in 1985, Klíma became the first player from a country under the control of the Soviet Union to defect to a US-based team, with the help of Red Wings officials and the United States government. That was four years before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
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During his time in the NHL, Klima scored a total of 313 goals and 260 assists in 786 regular-season games. He also played in 95 playoff games and won one Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1990.
Klima’s Game-Winner Was Crucial to the Last Oilers Stanley Cup Win
Klima’s contribution was hugely important in helping the Oilers win their last Stanley Cup. In 1989, he was traded from Red Wings with Adam Graves, Joe Murphy, and Jeff Sharples to the Oilers for Jimmy Carson, Kevin McClelland, and a fifth-round in the 1991 Draft. His trade helped set the stage for the Oilers’ surprising run to the Cup. The Oilers’ Kid Line of Martin Gelinas, Murphy, and Graves played a huge role in Edmonton’s last title.
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In the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, Klíma played a key role. In Game 1 of the series, the Oilers went ahead of the Bruins by a score of 2-0. However, Hall of Fame blueliner Ray Bourque scored two third-period goals to tie the game and force overtime.
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That game became the longest game in NHL playoff history. It dragged on and on. Neither team could score. Then, in the third overtime period and after a 25-minute power outage, Klíma scored the game-winning goal that gave the Oilers a 3-2 victory. The surprising Oilers won the series in five games and claim their fifth Stanley Cup championship in seven years.
Klima Had Ups and Downs with the Oilers
I remember Klima’s performance in the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals well. It was a game that many older Oilers fans like myself believe will go down as one of the most significant moments in Klima’s career and also one of the most significant in Oilers’ history.
It was ironic that Klima scored that goal. It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Klima with the Oilers. He was sometimes seen to be less than motivated on the ice; and, during the very playoff series where he scored the game-winner, Oilers’ head coach John Muckler barely put him on the ice. He was deep in Muckler’s dog house.
As I recall, one of the only reasons he hit the ice in overtime was because the rest of the team was gassed. Yet Klima made a remarkable impact when given the opportunity. His goal not only won the game for the Oilers; but, it also set the tone for the rest of the playoff series. The Bruins were favored to win the Stanley Cup that year. However, the Oilers pulled out of the series in five games.
That Oilers’ win in the 1990 Stanley Cup Final marked their fifth championship in seven years. Klima’s goal in Game 1 became an iconic moment that solidified his place in Oilers’ history. Despite his earlier struggles and limited playing time, Klima delivered when it mattered.
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In the playoffs, Klima’s overtime winner cemented his legacy as a clutch performer. It also personally endeared him to me (and many other) Oilers fans.
Klima’s Time with the Oilers
Klima played for the Oilers for only three seasons (from 1988 to 1991). He was known for his speed and offensive prowess, which made him a valuable asset to the high-scoring Oilers of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He often played on a line with fellow Jari Kurri and center Craig Simpson, forming a potent offensive forward line.
In a personal memory, I met Klima together with former Edmonton Eskimo football player Dave Cutler (a place-kicker) in Sherwood Park where we both lived at the time. He seemed like a down-to-earth guy. In my head, I expected him to be more flamboyant than he was.
Still, he was flamboyant on the ice. He will be remembered.