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Top 10 Unsung Heroes: Frank Musil (7)

His given name is Frantisek Musil. Teammates and friends knew him simply as Frank during an NHL career that saw him play 797 regular season games — he likely would have hit 1,000 games had he been put in the line-up by his coaches every night because, heaven knows, he was ready to play when the call came. Some Edmonton Oilers’ fans might not even remember Musil, but those of us who spent any time around the hulking blueliner from Pardubice most certainly do.

Musil was a quiet, likeable guy with a ready smile, hands the size of frying pans and a grip that would put a grown man on his knees if he wanted to when he shook your hand. Musil was a fitness freak with a mean streak on the ice and a work ethic that was second-to-none off it. When it came to busting out of the gate and being ready to play, Musil wasn’t a do-as-I-say guy, he was a do-as-I-do guy. I used to get tired just watching him work.

Frank Musil

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Defense — shoots L
Born Dec 17, 1964 — Pardubice, Czech Rep.
Height 6.03 — Weight 215 [191 cm/98 kg]

Drafted by Minnesota North Stars

Round 2 #38 overall 1983 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

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Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

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+/-

PIM

S

S%

1986-87

22

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MNS

72

2

9

11

0

148

83

2.4

1987-88

23

MNS

80

9

8

17

-2

213

78

11.5

1988-89

24

MNS

55

1

19

20

4

54

78

1.3

1989-90

25

MNS

56

2

8

10

0

109

78

2.6

1990-91

26

TOT

75

7

16

23

12

183

73

9.6

1990-91

26

MNS

8

0

2

2

0

23

5

0.0

1990-91

26

CGY

67

7

14

21

12

160

68

10.3

1991-92

27

CGY

78

4

8

12

12

103

71

5.6

1992-93

28

CGY

80

6

10

16

28

131

87

6.9

1993-94

29

CGY

75

1

8

9

38

50

65

1.5

1994-95

30

CGY

35

0

5

5

6

61

18

0.0

1995-96

31

OTT

65

1

3

4

-10

85

37

2.7

1996-97

32

OTT

57

0

5

5

6

58

24

0.0

1997-98

33

EDM

17

1

2

3

1

8

8

12.5

1998-99

34

EDM

39

0

3

3

0

34

9

0.0

2000-01

36

EDM

13

0

2

2

-2

4

0

5 yrs CGY

335

18

45

63

96

505

309

5.8

5 yrs MNS

271

14

46

60

2

547

322

4.3

3 yrs EDM

69

1

7

8

-1

46

17

5.9

2 yrs OTT

122

1

8

9

-4

143

61

1.6

Career

797

34

106

140

93

1241

709

4.8

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1988-89

24

MNS

5

1

1

2

0

4

9

11.1

1989-90

25

MNS

4

0

0

0

-2

14

5

0.0

1990-91

26

CGY

7

0

0

0

-6

10

4

0.0

1992-93

28

CGY

6

1

1

2

2

7

10

10.0

1993-94

29

CGY

7

0

1

1

2

4

6

0.0

1994-95

30

CGY

5

0

1

1

0

0

3

0.0

1997-98

33

EDM

7

0

0

0

1

6

0

1998-99

34

EDM

1

0

0

0

-1

2

2

0.0

Career

42

2

4

6

-4

47

39

5.1

WHY HE MAKES IT

One of the trademarks of being tagged an unsung hero is the willingness to work hard, to do whatever it takes — and I mean anything — to get the job done. In that regard, Musil has few peers. Drafted by Minnesota 38th overall in 1983, Musil, like other players in Communist Czechoslovakia back in the early 1980s, wasn’t going to be allowed to just pack up and leave. Facing that, Minnesota GM Lou Nanne, agent Ritch Winter and Musil hatched a three-year plan that would take him through Yugoslavia on a holiday visa and then to the U.S. on a work visa. It was cloak-and-dagger stuff.

Nanne and Winter even waited until Musil had completed his mandatory military service so he couldn’t be deemed a deserter. Once here and while drawing an NHL salary, Musil worked full-time jobs during the off-season to make extra money. He sold cars in Minnesota. While in Calgary playing for the Flames, he worked summers in a slaughterhouse. Musil never hesitated to bust ass to get ahead, and that carried over to his entire playing career in the NHL — those 797 regular season games and 42 more in the playoffs.

Those of us who were around the rink every day back when Musil joined the Oilers for the 1997-98 season, saw it first-hand. Musil was 33 by the time he finally got to Edmonton. At six-foot-three and about 220 pounds, Musil was a big man. He was also the benchmark for fitness. In each and every one of his three training camps in Edmonton, Musil topped fitness testing against players 10-15 years younger. He worked out on a daily basis like no player I have ever seen. And out on the ice, well, opponents had to be willing to pack a lunch to get the better of Musil. He was relentless.

THE FINE PRINT

While injuries would limit Musil to just 69 games with the Oilers in parts of three seasons, he set the standard for putting in the work every day for the likes of Boris Mironov, Roman Hamrlik, Janne Niinimaa, Tom Poti and Sean Brown. Marty McSorley, who’d faced Musil plenty when he was in Minnesota and Calgary, used to glance over at Musil pumping the bike or working a drill and nod in admiration. “Look at Frank . . .” It was pretty tough to slack off around the rink back then when Musil was standing in a puddle of sweat or doing drills like this life depended on it.

There was a room just down the hall from the Oiler dressing room that became known as Frank’s Room, because his wife Andrea and sons, Adam and David, would camp out there while Musil was doing extra skating or working in the weight room — even when he wasn’t playing, which was often. Musil’s family was in that room the day Frank fell into the boards during a training camp drill and suffered a spinal cord injury that would eventually end his career. It was, to understate, an awful day.

There’s nothing, of course, about those 69 games (eight more in the playoffs) Musil toiled for the Oilers that stands out as far as his on-ice accomplishments go. He was a big, honest, tough, stay-at-home third-pairing guy who was always ready to play when the call came, willing to give you all he had, willing to do whatever it took. When it came to being a pro, Musil set the bar as high as anybody ever has behind the scenes with the Oilers without the slightest bit of fanfare.

This series of various Top 10 lists will focus on the post-1990 Oilers – the players who haven’t played on a Stanley Cup winner in Edmonton.

The List: