Other International Stars
By Patrick Houda
This center was born on October 12,1921 in Prague, Czech Republic. He was a very
constructive center with a good touch for the net. He was strong and very creative. Good
skater. He began playing for CLTK (Cesky Lawn Tennis Klub) Prague as a youngster and went
on to play 11 seasons in the Czechoslovakian league between 1938-49.
He represented Czechoslovakia 31 times, scoring 36 goals. He played in the 1939 World
Championships (6 goals in 9 games) as well as 1947 (Gold) where he scored 15 goals in 7
games. He also participated in the 1948 Olympics. (9 goals in 8 games) Drobný was also a
world class tennis player at this time and combined his hockey with the tennis.
And it was during one of the tennis tournaments In 1949 that his life changed drastically
as he decided to emigrate from Czechoslovakia. Drobný himself remembered that
moment and the circumstances very well.
" On July 11,1949 I travelled to Gstaad in Switzerland together with my friend Cernik
(Whom he played in the Davis Cup together with) to participate in a tennis tournament
there. Together with Cernik I figured that we would stay there for about a week. So I put
50 dollars into my pocket and really looked forward to the tournament because some of the
worlds best tennis players were going to be there.
After two days when the tournament had already started we received a message from Prague
that told us to withdraw from the tournament and get back home. We refused. We were in a
very uncomfortable situation. The hosts of the tournament had invited us to play and we
couldn't just let them down. We were one of the main attractions in the tournament and our
absence could have meant financial losses for the organizer.
Later on two gentlemen. representing the Czechoslovakian foreign ministry showed up in
Gstaad. Again they told us to go back home, and they did it in a very arrogant way. When
they went back home, Cernik told me that he would not return back to Czechoslovakia. I
still hadn't made up my mind. I had never thought about defecting from my country. But my
human instinct and fear struck me as I was thinking about it further. If I would return
back home, would they ever let me play again ? Would I be able to travel everywhere that I
wanted ? At that time I had a tennis tournament ahead of me in USA and I was afraid that
they wouldn't let me go there.
I was afraid that I would never play abroad again. That they would not let me travel
freely. And I didn't agree with the way politics and sports was mixed. So I finally told
the organizer of the Gstaad tournament, a Mr. Scherz, that I wouldn't return back to
Czechoslovakia. I decided to stay in Switzerland.
I worked two years in Switzerland as a hockey trainer but I wanted to go to USA where my
girlfriend was. (Rita Anderson Jarvis whom he married later on). The problem was that I
was traveling on Swiss documents since my Czechoslovakian passport was revoked. If I had
come directly from Czechoslovakia then I could have stayed in USA. But in my situation I
would have to wait five years for a permanent stay.
I of course was really missing my home. To be able and visit my local favourite pub or to
eat moms donuts. I was all alone, My real friends were back home, my mom and dad. But that
was the prize I had to pay for freedom."
A couple of years later Drobný was invited by the Egyptian King Faruk and became an
Egyptian citizen. He represented Egypt when he played tennis. He lost the Wimbledon final
in 1949 in five sets, but in 1954 he won the Wimbledon title by beating Ken
Drobný also won the French Open twice and the Italian Open three times. He was a world
class hockey and tennis player who unfortunately was robbed of his best hockey years.
Drobný was a truly legendary hockey player who chose freedom ahead of everything else.