On the centenery of his birth: a Jaroslav Drobny appreciation thread

Born on October 12, 1921, the only man to have won an ice-hockey world championship and a Wimbledon title. He was inducted into both the Tennis Hall of Fame (1983) and the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame (1997).

Here's a photo of him (top row, far left) with his team-mates after they'd won silver at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz:


And here he is three months later, before the men's singles final at Roland Garros (right, beside eventual champ Frank Parker):


At Roland Garros he lost three French finals (1946, '48, and '50) before winning back-to-back titles in 1951 & '52. He's the all-time record holder for clay-court titles, winning 90+ in his career.
At Wimbledon he lost two finals (1949 & '52) and three semis before winning in 1954 at the age of 32, beating a teenage Ken Rosewall in four sets.

In ice-hockey he won the world championship in 1947, the Olympic silver in 1948, and was offered an NHL contract by the Boston Bruins in 1949 (which he turned down so that he could continue as an amateur tennis player).

He defected in July 1949 during the Swiss Championships in Gstaad, with Davis Cup team-mate Vladimir Cernik. Six years later, on the back of his Wimbledon win, he wrote his autobiography, Champion in Exile, and it's a fantastic read if you can get hold of a copy.
 
Last edited:

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
Born on October 12, 1921, the only man to have won an ice-hockey world championship and a Wimbledon title. He was inducted into both the Tennis Hall of Fame (1983) and the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame (1997).

Here's a photo of him (top row, far left) with his team-mates after they'd won silver at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz:


And here he is three months later, before the men's singles final at Roland Garros (right, beside eventual champ Frank Parker):


At Roland Garros he lost three French finals (1946, '48, and '50) before winning back-to-back titles in 1951 & '52. He's the all-time record holder for clay-court titles, winning 90+ in his career.
At Wimbledon he lost two finals (1949 & '52) and three semis before winning in 1954 at the age of 32, beating a teenage Ken Rosewall in four sets.

In ice-hockey he won the world championship in 1947, the Olympic silver in 1948, and was offered an NHL contract by the Boston Bruins in 1949 (which he turned down so that he could continue as an amateur tennis player).

He defected in July 1949 during the Swiss Championships in Gstaad, with Davis Cup team-mate Vladimir Cernik. Six years later, on the back of his Wimbledon win, he wrote his autobiography, Champion in Exile, and it's a fantastic read if you can get hold of a copy.
One minor asterisk to add on his hockey career, he was offered an NHL contract, but I doubt that he could have played. In those days the NHL had a strict rule that if a player had one injured eye, he had to quit the pro game. Drobny had an eye injury from playing hockey, so that would probably have prevented him from playing in the NHL.
 
One minor asterisk to add on his hockey career, he was offered an NHL contract, but I doubt that he could have played. In those days the NHL had a strict rule that if a player had one injured eye, he had to quit the pro game. Drobny had an eye injury from playing hockey, so that would probably have prevented him from playing in the NHL.
Hmmm. Bylaw 12:6, the "Trushinski Bylaw". I had no idea of that.

Would it have affected Drobny though? Reading online it seems to say that "players with one eye, or 3/60ths of normal vision, shall not be eligible to play for a member club. Loss of 75 percent of sight in an eye is required for insurance to take effect." [Source]

Was Drobny's vision that badly impaired? I got the impression from his autobiography that while the actual injury looked bad at the time because of all the blood on the ice, it was quickly stitched up by doctors. The subsequent loss of vision was more gradual, and not too severe; i.e. he became short-sighted, but not blind in one eye.

All moot I guess, since he never took up the offer. I really used the fact mostly to demonstrate the level of his skills, just in case some nimrod came to the thread to say Olympic ice-hockey in those days was as amateur as the tennis, not as impressive as Rafa winning a golf tournament, blah blah blah.
:rolleyes:

I honestly think being that good in two such different sports, at the same time, is one of the most impressive sporting feats I've ever encountered. But here we are seventy years later and I suspect most tennis fans haven't even heard of him.
 

urban

Legend
Ice hockey then wasn't good for the head, without helmet or mask. I read that the goalie Terry Sawchuk became mentally ill, because he got so many shots on his head.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
Hmmm. Bylaw 12:6, the "Trushinski Bylaw". I had no idea of that.

Would it have affected Drobny though? Reading online it seems to say that "players with one eye, or 3/60ths of normal vision, shall not be eligible to play for a member club. Loss of 75 percent of sight in an eye is required for insurance to take effect." [Source]

Was Drobny's vision that badly impaired? I got the impression from his autobiography that while the actual injury looked bad at the time because of all the blood on the ice, it was quickly stitched up by doctors. The subsequent loss of vision was more gradual, and not too severe; i.e. he became short-sighted, but not blind in one eye.

All moot I guess, since he never took up the offer. I really used the fact mostly to demonstrate the level of his skills, just in case some nimrod came to the thread to say Olympic ice-hockey in those days was as amateur as the tennis, not as impressive as Rafa winning a golf tournament, blah blah blah.
:rolleyes:

I honestly think being that good in two such different sports, at the same time, is one of the most impressive sporting feats I've ever encountered. But here we are seventy years later and I suspect most tennis fans haven't even heard of him.
The way the league interpreted those rules, even short-sightedness was sufficient to trigger the exclusion from play. Tim Horton was short-sighted, and somehow managed to slip through the cracks, although his teammates wondered how he got away with it. If you were short-sighted, that was a huge risk factor in seeing a dangerous shot.
 

DMP

Professional
His win against Rosewall was the great Wimbledon story of my youth. The triumph after so many near misses. It stayed that way until, ironically, Rosewall himself was in the Drobny role against Connors. That was not to be, but finally we had Ivanisovic winning in 2001. For younger tennis watchers that is the exact equivalent to Drobny's victory.
 
His win against Rosewall was the great Wimbledon story of my youth. The triumph after so many near misses. It stayed that way until, ironically, Rosewall himself was in the Drobny role against Connors. That was not to be, but finally we had Ivanisevic winning in 2001. For younger tennis watchers that is the exact equivalent to Drobny's victory.
You must be a similar age to my mother. She was 12 when Drobny pulled off his miracle, and even today she talks of him fondly. I did think that Ivanisevic's fairytale was his closest modern parallel; it's nice to hear it confirmed.

 

Larry Duff

Hall of Fame
The late great Dan Maskell often referred to him when commentating (which was quite an honor as he didn't really say a lot)
 
  • Like
Reactions: PDJ

DMP

Professional
You must be a similar age to my mother. She was 12 when Drobny pulled off his miracle, and even today she talks of him fondly. I did think that Ivanisevic's fairytale was his closest modern parallel; it's nice to hear it confirmed.

I was 7, so 5 years younger. I think Drobny's win had a bit more emotion because of his history of becoming a stateless exile after WW2. I suppose in a way Ivanisovic was a bit of a tennis exile, banished to the ranks of the unwashed no-hopers before his triumphant return:)
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Ice hockey then wasn't good for the head, without helmet or mask. I read that the goalie Terry Sawchuk became mentally ill, because he got so many shots on his head.
It still isn't. (American) football gets the lion's share of attention but hockey isn't far behind in concussions/athlete exposure:


I was 7, so 5 years younger. I think Drobny's win had a bit more emotion because of his history of becoming a stateless exile after WW2. I suppose in a way Ivanisovic was a bit of a tennis exile, banished to the ranks of the unwashed no-hopers before his triumphant return:)
I normally don't make a fuss about typos but this is the 2nd time you've misspelled Ivanisevic's name in 24 hours which shows a rather flippant disregard for the player in question. Maybe try to extend more recent players the same courtesy as you do the old-timers?
 
I would like to add to this photo that some of Drobny's teammates from the Olympics' hockey team were sentenced to many years in prison in a staged political trial. Drobny would obviously turn out the same way if he didn't emigrate.
Between the arrests and the 1948 air crash, every single one of the men in that photo suffered a gloomy fate of one kind or another, as I posted on Reddit last week.

Top row, left to right:

Bottom row, left to right:

Drobny and the Zabrodsky brothers, who turned their backs on their homelands and lost connection with family and friends forever, were the lucky ones. For JD himself, that meant he was unable to return in 1951 when his father was killed, nor was he able to even communicate with his now-widowed mother.
 
Last edited:
Top