In the world of ice hockey, the National Hockey League (NHL) stands as the ultimate destination for aspiring players. Many dream of wearing an NHL jersey and competing on the greatest stage of them all. But there's one player whose career path took a different route, yet he managed to become one of the best ice hockey players that never played in the NHL. His name is Tomas Zaborsky, and his journey is a testament to the fact that greatness can shine outside the NHL spotlight.
“If I had to choose the best hockey league outside of the NHL, I would go with the Finnish Sm-Liiga”
- Tomas Zaborsky
A Slovak Sensation
Born on November 14, 1987, in Trencin, Slovakia, Tomas Zaborsky's passion for ice hockey ignited at a young age. He honed his skills in the youth leagues of his hometown, displaying an innate ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Zaborsky's journey to professional ice hockey began in the Slovak Extraliga, the top-tier league in Slovakia. As a teenager, he quickly made his mark, showcasing his scoring prowess and determination and he also made the Slovak National Team in the Junior’s World Cup in 2006.
In 2006, Zaborsky's remarkable talent caught the attention of NHL scouts. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft. This was a significant recognition of his abilities, and it marked the moment when many believed he would make the jump to the NHL.
A Different Path
However, Zaborsky's journey took a different turn. Instead of making the leap to the NHL, he embarked on a journey to North America, where he played in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers' AHL affiliate and a few other teams. Although he didn't get the chance to showcase his skills in the NHL at that time, his stint in North America further developed his game and showcased his dedication.
Zaborsky later returned to Europe, where he continued to excel in various leagues. He made a significant impact in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with Avangard Omsk, but his best career years are connected to his times in the Finnish SM-Liiga where he played for IFK Helsinki, Tappara Tampere and Assat Pori - consistently ranking among the league's top goal-scorers. His scoring prowess transcended borders, earning him a reputation as one of Europe's finest forwards.
Representing Slovakia in World Championship and the Winter Olympics, Zaborsky proudly wore his country's colors on the international stage. His skills and dedication were on full display against the world's best players.
A Legacy of Excellence
Tomas Zaborsky's journey may not have led him to the NHL, but his legacy in the world of ice hockey is undeniable. His innate ability to find the back of the net, coupled with his unwavering determination and passion for the game, has left an indelible mark. He serves as a shining example that greatness can be achieved outside the NHL, inspiring hockey players everywhere to follow their dreams and make their own unique mark on the sport. In a world where the NHL often takes the spotlight, Tomas Zaborsky stands as a testament to the fact that greatness knows no boundaries. His career is a remarkable journey that proves that the best ice hockey player may not always wear an NHL jersey, but they can still leave an enduring legacy in the hearts of fans and the records of the sport.
|2005-06||HK Dukla Trencin||4||0||0|
|Salavat Yulaev Ufa||31||8||5|
|2021-22||Bílí Tygři Liberec||11||2||0|
|Schwenninger Wild Wings||41||13||14|
Source: Tomas Zaborsky on Eliteprospects
Meet the Player: Tomas Zaborsky
We spoke with Tomas Zaborsky who never played in the NHL
You are one of not many players that scored goals in Finland, Czechia, Slovakia, Germany, Russia, and Sweden. Except for Switzerland, you played in all of Europe’s best hockey leagues. If you had to choose only one league from them, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose Finland. I love the quality of the league and as a country Finland suits me very well.
In season 2011 – 2012, you scored 35 goals in a single season with Assat Pori in Finland, which was the most goals by any player that season in Finland. What made that season so special for you?
I was in pori my third season and each season i improve my stats so i put lot of time into train in offseason and was so happy it paid off. Especially when i played 4 months in season with busted shoulder which i had to take surgery before end of season.
You have a great hockey career, but never played an NHL game. Is that something you regret and wish that you have maybe played longer in the AHL to get your NHL opportunity?
I never regret any of my decisions in my hockey career. Sometimes in life not everything works perfect like you want to.
If you could choose a type of goal, shot or something else that is typical for you on the ice – what would represent your style of play best?
I have very specific wrist shot I try to use my whole career. It’s not the hardest shot but I try to use quick release and accuracy.
You are known to be a hard worker, on and off the ice. What other sports or activities do you do to stay in shape or during the off season?
In the off-season I like to play a lot of tennis and football those are my favorite sports.
You were one of the first players to ditch traditional tape and switch to Rezztek® on the blade of your hockey stick. Why do you prefer Rezztek® to traditional hockey tape?
Rezztek® is more durable last longer, grip is better and its lighter tape. and main reason is it saves me a lot of time in locker room that I can do different things and not spend long time taping my stick. There is no way I would go back to regular tape.