First Czech to play in NHL dies

Jaroslav Jirik, the first Czech allowed to play in the NHL during the country’s communist era, has died in a plane crash. He was 71.

Officials say Jirik died Monday in a crash of his ultralight plane in the city of Brno, about 125 miles from Prague. Police say Jirik’s one-seat plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the Brno Medlanky airport and caught fire. The Light Aircraft Association of the Czech Republic confirmed the death.

Jirik was cleared to play in the NHL by Czech authorities. He was a right wing who played only three games for the St. Louis Blues in the 1969-70 season. He spent most of the season in the minors with the Kansas City Blues.