In fact, the brilliant and agile hockey goalie with a wild style à la “Hašek” had a wonderful career. He was an Olympic champion, a three-time world champion and a multiple winner of the highest Czech and Czechoslovakian hockey competition.
During his short career in the NHL (he played four seasons), he received the William Jennings Trophy for the goaltender with the fewest goals scored, he almost reached for the Vezina Trophy, he played in the NHL All-Star Game. All this in a Philadelphia Flyers jersey. In the historical table of goalkeepers with the best goal average, he is in fifth place together with Tiny Thompson (2.08 goals per game).
If the failed playoff had not been played for him, he could have entered the annals of the best league in the world. But it was played and played, and Roman just didn’t do well there. It went so far that it was said about him that he was not interested in the playoffs, that he was not giving it his all, that by then he would have preferred to see himself at home in the Czech Republic. God knows how it really was.
Anyway, Roman was a “number”. He needed everything to revolve around him. He had a hard time with the referees and, through the media, even with his teammates from the Philadelphia Flyers, because he was convinced that they did not give everything they could in the playoffs. “He was like a sleeping tiger, how many times he was completely calm during the match and then suddenly started after the referee. He also caught a lot of ten-minute penalties for that,” said his favorite coach Horst Valášek about him some time ago for iDNES.
Čechmánek was born in Chrudim during the deep era of pre-revolutionary Czechoslovakia. He started playing hockey in 1988 in what was then Gottwaldov (today’s Zlín), and also played in Dukla Jihlava, Olomouc, and Hodonín.
He didn’t do brilliantly at all. He left Zlín as unpromising. Even at the age of 21, he was unemployed and made a living as an electrician. But then he restarted his career in Hodonín, from where coach Horst Valášek dragged him to Vsetín in the summer of 1993. The guy must have been a genius, he immediately sensed what was lurking in Čechmánek.
This actually started the famous Vsetin era. Čechmánek spent six seasons in the team, where he also experienced his best years. It was one big ride from 1994 to 2000.
Then came the draft from Philadelphia. Already in his first season in the NHL he played great. He pushed Brian Boucher out of first place and immediately became one of the best goaltenders in the league. But the mentioned play off came. In the last game of the first round, he allowed five goals in an embarrassing 0-8 loss to Buffalo. Overall, they lost 2-4 and the prospect of the Stanley Cup was gone.
But his next season was good again, this time including the first round of the playoffs, in which he scored a record low of just two goals in five games against the Ottawa Senators. But what was the point? The team was not doing well, Čechmánek publicly expressed his anger at his teammates, and perhaps this shootout will harm him in the future. They finished 1-4 in games.
In the 2002/3 season it didn’t look bad again. But Philadelphia didn’t go further than the second round, where they didn’t pass Ottawa again, and Čechmánek caught it. At the end of the season, he was mercilessly traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
And that was the beginning of the end for Roman in America. Disappointment came in an average Kings team. That is why he made a lawful return to the Czech Republic, where he then played with his old team HC Vsetín during the canceled 2004/5 NHL season.
The extraordinary goalkeeper then found himself on a downward trajectory. In the following years he played for Karlovy Vary, Hamburg Freezers, Swedish Linköping and the last three seasons for Třinec.
On the international field, however, it was great. There was a lot of competition between Czech goalkeepers at that time. Čechmánek had to wait for his opportunity. There were Bříza or Turk, and Hašek in Nagano. It was also about how he sat down with the coaches. He established himself only under Ivan Hlinka and under the leadership of Josef Augusta he won the title of champion in 2000.
After ending his playing career, he tried for a while as a coach, but he did not achieve greater success.
In addition, he experimented with business, here he did not succeed at all. He traded in wine, real estate, and in 2013 he founded his own microbrewery in Zlín. However, nothing went well, and in September 2014, bankruptcy was declared for Čechmánek’s property.
Endless court battles began. In 2017, he was accused of fraud. Finally, last April in Zlín, he was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence, suspended for a five-year probationary period. It must have been a hard blow for him.
His life ended on November 12, 2023, at the age of only 52, under circumstances that are still not completely clear.