He was one of two players who made it all the way from Lithuania to the NHL. After finishing his career, Dainius Zubrus will now chair ice hockey in his country as he was elected as President of Hockey Lietuva, Lithuania’s governing body for ice hockey.
40-year-old Zubrus, who grew up in the Lithuanian town of Elektrenai, played 1,293 NHL games (and 106 post-season games) between 1996 and 2016 for the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Captials, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks.
Despite his busy NHL schedule he also represented Lithuania in three IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I events, first in 2005 when he spent the lockout season with Lada Togliatti in Russia, then two times successfully on home ice. In 2014 in Vilnius he was the scoring leader of the tournament and last spring in Kaunas Lithuania won gold at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B to earn promotion to the Group A for next year. It was also the first time the other former Lithuanian NHLer, Darius Kasparaitis, played for the team.
Both Zubrus and Kasparaitis are legends in their country and have been involved off the ice for years. In the off season they ran camps, brought equipment to Lithuania and Zubrus has served as chairman for the youth league NVLRL.
Now he got another big assignment. At the general assembly Zubrus and another former national team player, Petras Nauseda, were the only candidates as president. Nauseda, who headed the organization from 2010 to 2018, eventually withdrew his application to make the way free for Zubrus, who was unanimously elected. Zubrus resides in Miami but will now travel to Lithuania more often. He said in his candidacy speech that he wants a new approach and stressed the need to come out from the comfort zone.
The newly elected Council also includes the following members: Vaidas Budrauskas, Remigijus Valickas, Petras Nauseda, Mindaugas Marcinkevicius, Vaclovas Gedvilas, Andrejus Silinas, Gintaras Sabunas, Sarunas Kuliesius and Oleg Tarasovas.
Zubrus takes over the Lithuanian association in interesting times. The successful hosting of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B allowed Hockey Lietuva to create a financial reserve and the national team will next season play at a higher level than in the years before. As a promoted team the Lithuanians will play Belarus, Korea, host Kazakhstan, Hungary and Slovenia at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Astana next spring.
During the assembly the jersey with the number 3 was retired from the Lithuanian national team to honour long-time player Mindaugas Kieras.