PRAGUE – Former Czechoslovak player, world championship coach and IIHF Hall of Famer Karel Gut passed away in Prague on Monday, January 6 at the age of 87. Gut was one of the great father figures of Czechoslovak ice hockey.
Karel Gut was one of Europe’s best defencemen in the 50s. He won three IIHF World Championship bronze medals between 1954 and 1959 in the five world tournaments he participated in. His biggest individual accomplishment was being named Best Defenceman at the 1955 World Championship in West Germany.
Gut also represented Czechoslovakia in three Olympic Games, 1952 in Oslo, 1956 in Cortina and 1960 in Squaw Valley, but each time the CSSR team missed the medal podium.
During the era when defencemen where by definition “stay-at-home”, Gut displayed a knack for scoring. In 35 IIHF World Championship games he scored 11 goals and added five assists, while in 22 Olympic contests Gut had 15 points, four goals and eleven assists. These were very unusual numbers for defencemen in the 50s and early 60s.
Altogether Karel Gut represented his country as player on 114 occasions.
After his playing career, Gut went into coaching and he was named as national team coach in 1974 paired with Jan Starsi. The Czechoslovaks were the first to internationally use the two-coach system consistently.
His greatest success came in the mid-70s when Gut & Starsi led Czechoslovakia to two IIHF World Championship titles 1976 (Katowice, Poland) and 1977 (Vienna, Austria), thus two times displacing the superior Soviet team.
Gut also finally got an Olympic medal in Innsbruck 1976, where the Czechoslovak team claimed silver. Another highlight was the 1976 inaugural Canada Cup where the CSSR squad surprisingly made it two the finals against Canada. Although not awarded with any medal, for Karel Gut this was one of his biggest accomplishments as a coach.
In the preliminary round of the 1976 Canada Cup, the Czechoslovaks defeated Team Canada 1-0 in Montreal, in what has been described as one of the best international games in the history of hockey. The team worked Gut’s and Starsi’s defensive system to perfection on this memorable night.
Gut’s last major event as national team coach was the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
In the years 1994-2004, Karel Gut was the President of the Czech Ice Hockey Association. During this period the national team won the historic first best-on-best 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano and became four times World Champion: 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Karel Gut was inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1998.