“Hey, remember...?” is a lighthearted look back at some of the lesser-known former Bruins we’ve seen pass through these parts in recent years. They might not have been stars and might not be the first guys you’d think of as “former Bruins,” but they’ve all got unique stories.
Who? Mariusz Czerkawski
When did he play here? 1993-1996, then again in 2006
What were his stats? 118 GP, 27G, 25A, 62PTS
What happened after the Bruins? He headed over to Switzerland, where he played in National League A for a few years, before ending his playing days in his native Poland.
Before there was Matt Grzelcyk or Urho Vaakanainen, there was Mariusz Czerkawski.
Those two young guys might have spelling-obsessed bloggers waking up in cold sweats, but Czerkawski has them beat: a few s’s, a couple z’s...a great name.
(Just to be safe, I have his last name copied onto my clipboard and am pressing paste instead of typing it out every time. Technology! Czerkawski. Czerkawski, Czerkawski, Czerkawski. It’s always right.)
Poland may be known for some great, hard-to-pronounce names (family on my father’s side changed their names to be easier to spell upon moving to the United States), but they weren’t exactly known for top-flight hockey players.
Czerkawski changed that when he was drafted by the Bruins in 1991, 106th overall (5th round). Per Wikipedia, Czerkawski was the first Polish-born, Polish-trained player to play in the NHL; I haven’t been able to confirm that with another source, but it sounds cool, so let’s go with it.
Czerkawski got the Bruins’ attention after scoring 40 points in 24 games in Poland’s top professional league...and he was only 18 at the time.
After being drafted, Czerkawski made the jump to Sweden, where he played for three years before coming stateside during the 1993 season. Czerkawski played in four regular season games for the B’s that year, recording two goals and an assist. He was impressive in the playoffs as well, recording three goals and three assists in the Bruins’ run into the second round.
The 17-game stint was a good one, giving B’s fans a taste of what this kid from Poland was all about.
He became an NHL regular during the 1994-1995 season, which was shortened by a lockout. Czerkawski played in 47 regular season games, putting up 12 goals and 14 assists. He’d add a goal in five playoff games.
That kind of production is what NHL teams dream of coming from fifth-round picks, but unfortunately, the Polish puckster was unable to keep it going.
Czerkawski would put up just 11 points in 33 games the following season, and the Bruins ended up dealing him to the Edmonton Oilers; this was the deal that saw the Bruins acquire goalie Bill Ranford.
It appears that the Bruins may have given up on Czerkawski a bit too early, however. After 26- and 12-goal seasons in Edmonton, Czerkawski flourished with the New York Islanders. He scored 20+ goals in four of his five seasons on Long Island, including two consecutive seasons of 30+ goals.
Czerkawski would bounce around after his initial stint with the Islanders, landing with the Canadiens, the Islanders again, heading back to Sweden, then ending up in Toronto, where he was waived during the 2005-2006 season.
Who picked him up? Why, your Boston Bruins, of course, who were mired in the midst of a bad season.
Czerkawski was able to end his NHL career where it started, skating in 16 games and scoring four goals with a single assist.
After the 2006 season ended, Czerkawski headed back to Europe, where he finished his playing career.
Czerkawski is currently the highest-scoring Polish player in NHL history, and it’s not really that close. He ended up with some impressive numbers, especially for a fifth-round pick: 215 goals, 220 assists and 435 points in 745 NHL games.
(For reference, the second player on the Polish list is Wojtek Wolski, a good NHLer in his own right, but a guy who sits nearly 200 points behind Czerkawski.)
Drafted as a teenage and representing a small nation on hockey’s biggest stage, Czerkawski made Poland proud. In fact, Poland gave Czerkawski was named to the Order of Polonia Restituta, receiving the Knight’s Cross in 2004.
Per Wikipedia, the award is given to “both military and civilians as well as on foreigners for outstanding achievements” in a variety of fields, including sports.
He may have given Bruins fans some hard lessons in spelling, but he certainly made his country proud in the process.