ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Frank Musil was always tough as nails and mean as hell as a defenseman in an NHL career spanning 797 games, but he was soft as putty talking about son David after the Edmonton Oilers selected him 31st overall at the NHL Entry Draft Saturday.
Proud as could be was Frank, or Frantisek, his given name when he defected from Czechoslovakia to join the Minnesota North Stars back in 1986, as you’d expect. But this went beyond that, with good reason.
And when those of us who’ve been around forever brought up the day more than a decade ago, when Frank fell into the end boards during a practice with the Oilers and suffered a neck injury that essentially ended his career while David was at the rink, as he often was, that cranked up the emotion even more.
While one Musil career in Oilers silks ended prematurely, another is just getting started now that GM Steve Tambellini called David’s name at the Xcel Energy Center.
David, 18, spent lots of time in and around the Oilers dressing room during parts of the three seasons his old man hooked and hacked and held and whacked as a clutch-and-grab expert on the blue line. It seemed David and the rest of Frank’s family was always together in the days the joint was called Skyreach Centre.
David, who just completed his second season with the Vancouver Giants, was in the rink the morning his dad lost his footing and fell head-first into the end boards. Even as trainers rushed to Frank, I remember how Oilers PR man Bill Tuele tried to take charge of the situation, to make sure that young David didn’t come upon the scene.
"I’m probably going to be a little bit different," David said, asked about how he’ll stack up compared to the robust style his dad played. "But, I like to watch him and talk with him. It helps me a lot.
"For sure, I’d like to get a little bit of that in me, too, because I know it’s going to help me a lot in my NHL career . . . he’s got a lot of experience."
Back when Frank was drafted, it took him several months to even find out Minnesota had selected him 38th overall in 1983. The Entry Draft wasn’t the overblown TV production it’s become now. And news didn’t skirt the Iron Curtain quickly.
"He didn’t even really know he got drafted," David said. "He didn’t tell me a whole lot about his draft. He doesn’t have a lot of memories. He said, ‘Just enjoy it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ "
It was, to say the least, a different time. "I found out a few months after, if not one year after," Frank said of his big day.
A TOUGH FEW DAYS
Frank worked his backside off to make himself an NHL player, defecting with the help of agent Ritch Winter and piecing together a career that took him to Minnesota, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton.
David, six-foot-three and about 200 pounds, is more talented than the old man. He’s got genetics on his side — his mother, Andrea Holikova, was a world-class tennis player who played Martina Navratilova at the U.S. Open. His uncle is Bobby Holik.
"For sure he’s got more ability," Frank said. "It’s a different game. I don’t know if I would survive in today’s game, but players usually find a way how to play.
"With David, I think he has his mom’s ability. Hopefully, he’s got some of my determination. I shouldn’t say hopefully. He’s got some."
The other dynamic in the drafting of David Musil by the Oilers is that Frank wore two hats on this one — father first, and Edmonton scout second. Frank was excluded from the meeting the team held Friday night when the decision to draft David was made.
"It’s been probably the most difficult few hours," Frank said. "For me, I’ve been doing this for awhile. It’s always been an enjoyable time. It’s different when you have your son involved. I’m certainly very proud.
"You go through your life in not minutes, but seconds, and you question what you did right and what you did wrong, all in all. He’s at the starting line. Hopefully, He can get there."
TIME WILL TELL
Time, as it always does, will determine if Tambellini and the Oilers made the right choice with that 31st pick here. That’s not something anybody will know for two or three or even five years. Not even dad.
"It makes it that much sweeter, not that I need any more stress," laughed Musil, talking about the last 24 hours. "It’s a proud feeling.
"Not only what kind of hockey player he is, but he’s a helluva kid and a helluva person. I’m confident of that."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.