This article was originally published in February, 2013.
During his time in the NHL, Roman Turek was a man of many masks and roles, but the Czech netminder never failed to live up to the standards of a consummate professional.
Whether he was playing for the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, or Calgary Flames, Turek never forgot his duties as a team player, something that undoubtedly endeared him to teammates and fans while he was playing in the NHL. While Turek became a scapegoat during his time in St. Louis and eventually lost his starting job to Miikka Kiprusoff in Calgary, the Czech goalie always took everything in stride when playing hockey in North America.
Turek might have had a limited stay in the NHL as he only played from 1996-2004, but he certainly left the league having made an impact on the teams that he played for.
Roman Turek: From World Champ to Stanley Cup Champ
Roman Turek’s road to the NHL was one that the goalie had to pave for himself as his strong play for the Czechoslovakian and Czech Republic teams put him on the radar in North America. In particular, Turek’s strong showing (7-0-1, 1.88 GAA, .952 Save Percentage) during the 1996 World Championships for the Czech Republic team illustrated that the European netminder could possibly make an impact in the NHL one day if he kept up his strong play.
After backstopping the Czech Republic to the gold medal in the 1996 World Championships there was probably little doubt that Turek could one day make a name for himself in the NHL, and sure enough the Dallas Stars held much the same sentiments as they brought the Czech overseas to see what he could bring to the table.
It didn’t take long for Turek to cement himself as Eddie Belfour‘s backup in Dallas and the two goalies wound up sharing the William M. Jennings trophy during the 1998-1999 NHL season. More importantly, the 1998-1999 NHL season gave Turek his first taste of championship success as the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup against the Buffalo Sabres in six games. Even though Ed Belfour was at the helm for all of the Stars’ playoff victories that season, the experience undoubtedly gave the Czech netminder an idea of what it would take to be a champion in the future.
After paying his dues for two seasons as Ed Belfour’s backup, the Dallas Stars traded Roman Turek to the St. Louis Blues, and the goalie thrived in the regular season as he recorded 66 wins as a member of the Blues from 1999-2001. While Turek was plagued by soft goals during his postseason stints with the Blues and was essentially exiled from St. Louis because of his propensity to break down mentally, the goalie was a huge reason for the team’s success.
Despite the fact that the Stanley Cup didn’t follow Turek to St. Louis, he was able to redeem himself with the Calgary Flames after being traded from the Blues during the 2001 off-season. Even though the Flames did not make the playoffs during Turek’s first two seasons with the team, the goalie certainly had an impact on the team. From 2001-2003, Turek started 134 games for the flames and recorded 57 victories against 47 losses. Some might gloss over those numbers as being fairly average, but one should also keep in mind that Turek joined a Flames team at a time when Craig Button was doing a massive overhaul of Calgary’s on-ice product.
Turek’s numbers during his first two years with the Flames might have been average, but he never forgot his role as a team player, something that was evidenced before the 2004-2005 NHL Lockout reared its ugly head.
During his third season with the Flames, the goalie known as “Large” suffered some injuries that forced Calgary to make a deal with San Jose for Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff adjusted quite well to manning Calgary’s crease as he posted a GAA well below 2.00 for the Flames for the remainder of the 2003-2004 regular season. While Kiprusoff and the Flames would eventually be ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, Turek never complained about being usurped by the Finnish netminder and even made some crucial appearances (vs. Vancouver Canucks) during the late stages of the 2003-2004 regular season when Kiprusoff suffered some minor injuries.
Not only was Turek a consummate professional during the course of the regular season and postseason, his willingness to approach the Flames’ management in order to restructure his contract was a gesture that was undoubtedly much appreciated by Flames fans. Turek had two years remaining on his deal, but he understood that Miikka Kiprusoff would be the future in Calgary’s crease and restructured his deal so the Flames could potentially have enough money to re-sign Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla. Even though the 2004-2005 NHL lockout would change Turek’s future plans of playing hockey in North America, the goalie’s ability to put his team before himself was an action that defined the Czech’s selfless and professional attitude.
Roman Turek Gone From the NHL, But Not From Hockey
In the early months of July 2005, Turek opted to continue playing for HC Ceske Budejovice instead of returning to the NHL. Turek’s decision to remain in the Czech Extraliga was felt to some extent by the Flames as Jamie McLennan, Brian Boucher, and Philippe Sauve collectively struggled in the backup role from 2005-2007. Even though Miikka Kiprusoff has been a workhorse for the Calgary Flames during his tenure with the team, it is safe to say that the team could have benefited from having a healthy Turek as its backup goalie if he had chosen to come back to the NHL.
Signing with HC Ceske Budejovice was probably more of a comfortability move on Turek’s behalf, especially since he had played for the team for eight seasons before arriving in the NHL. Choosing such a familiar team to play for obviously had its benefits as Turek posted five seasons (2005-2010) of solid play in the Czech Extraliga after his tour of duty in the NHL.
After turning in some excellent regular season and postseason play in the Czech Extraliga, Turek officially hung up his skates during the summer of 2010. Fellow Czech netminders Roman Cechmanek and Dominik Hasek are probably enjoying their time away from the NHL, but at 42 years old, Roman Turek has traveled a different route as he was named the goalie coach of HC Ceske Budejovice not long ago. Even though hockey fans were only able to see Turek play in the NHL for a certain period of time, the goalie never failed to entertain, and more importantly, he never put his wants or needs ahead of his team.