Other International Stars
Jaroslav Drobny
Czechoslovakia
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 Rosewall. 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.