Detroit — Petr Klima, one of the most popular players in his era with the Red Wings, died unexpectedly in his native Czechia Thursday at the age of 58.
News reports out of Czechia, and confirmed by the Czech Ice Hockey Federation, say Klima was found in his home in Chomutov, with no further details.
Klima was drafted in 1983 in the fifth round (86th overall) by the Red Wings and made his NHL debut two years later.
Klima, 20 at the time, defected to North America during the summer of 1985, a plan orchestrated by the Wings’ organization. He was the first Czech player to defect to a U.S.-based team at the time.
To commemorate his coming to the United States, Klima always wore sweater No. 85, the year he defected.
Klima was one of the Wings’ most popular players during his time in Detroit, but his off-ice issues ultimately ended his Wings career. His problem with alcohol led to one suspension, and numerous headlines of his off-ice antics.
Klima played in 306 games in parts of six seasons in Detroit, scoring 130 goals with 93 assists. Klima ended his career with a 13-game comeback with the Wings in 1998-99, scoring one goal.
“The Detroit Red Wings are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Petr Klima, who passed away at the age of 58 in Chomutov, Czechia,” the Wings organization said in a statement. “Klima spent the first five seasons of his career with Detroit (1985-90) before returning to the Red Wings in his final NHL season in 1998-99, logging a total of 223 points in 306 games.
“The Red Wings organization offers its heartfelt condolences to the Klima family during this difficult time.”
Klima played in 786 NHL games between the Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins over 13 years. Klima scored 313 goals and had 260 assists for 573 points, and won the Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990.
Klima scored one of the NHL’s most talked-about goals during that 1990 Stanley Cup Finals series, playing against the Boston Bruins. Klima scored the game-wining goal in triple overtime in Game 1, the longest game in NHL Stanley Cup Finals history.
Ironically, Klima was benched for a majority of that game, but was back in the lineup for triple overtime.
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