After playing two seasons for Motor Ceske Budejovice in the Czech junior leagues, highlighted by his 1992-93 season of 26 goals and 57 points in 32 games, and representing the Czech Republic at the 1993 European Junior Championships with 4 goals and 11 points in 6 games, Pospal was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
Prospal wasted no time in coming to North America and was assigned by the Flyers to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League to continue his development. He played three seasons for Hershey from 1993-94 to 1995-96. While his goal numbers were consistent (14, 13, 15), his point totals increased each season as his playmaking improved, going from 35 points to 45 and then 51.
During his time in Hershey, Prospal was allowed to leave the club to participate in both the 1994 and 1995 World Junior Championships
He would play the majority of the 1996-97 season with the Flyers new AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms where his offensive game took a major step forward, as he cut loose for 32 goals and 95 points in 63 games. This led to a call up by the Flyers to make his NHL debut and he saw action in 18 games that season, scoring his first 5 goals on his way to 15 points.
"Vinny" would make the Philadelphia roster out of training camp in 1997-98 and struggled with just 5 goals and 18 points in 41 games after suffering a fractured arm during the playoffs the previous season when he collided with a teammate during practice.
He was then traded to the Ottawa Senators in January of 1998 with Pat Falloon and a 2nd round draft pick for the Senators Alexandre Daigle. Prospal played the final 15 games of the season with a goal and 7 points. In 1998-99, he improved to 10 goals and then more than doubled that to 22 in 1999-00, which combined with 22 assists, gave him 55 points on the year.
Having raised his game that year, Prospal was named to the Czech Republic squad for his first ever World Championships at the senior level. The Czechs beat Norway, Japan and then Canada to win Group 3 and then hammered Italy, lost to Finland and rebounded to beat Slovakia in the Second Round. In the playoffs, the Czechs beat Latvia 3-1 and defeated Canada for a second time 2-1 to advance to the final, where they prevailed over rivals Slovakia for the second time 5-3 to earn Prospal a gold medal. During the tournament, he contributed 3 goals and 7 points in 9 games.
He returned to Ottawa for the 2000-01 season, but again had trouble finding the net, with a lone goal and 13 points in 40 games. The Senators then dealt him to the Florida Panthers for the second half of the season, where he fared little better, with just 4 goals and 16 points in 34 games.
The Panthers then sent Prospal across Florida in a trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2001-02 season. His offense benefited from the move, scoring 18 goals and 55 points in 2001-02 before a leap up to 79 points in 2002-03 from 22 goals and 57 assists.
For the 2003-04 season, Prospal signed as a free agent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, playing in all 82 games and scoring 19 goals and 54 points. With the Mighty Ducks out of the playoffs, he was free to participate in the 2004 World Championships for the Czechs scoring 7 points in 7 games.
That summer, Prospal was traded back to the Lightning in August, but before he could play for Tampa Bay again, he first played for the Czechs again at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Following that tournament, the NHL owners locked out the players and the season was eventually cancelled. Like many European players, Prospal returned home and played for HC Ceske Budejovice in the Czech second division, racking up 28 goals and 88 points in just 39 games as they blitzed the league with a 44-6-0-1-1 record before winning the league playoffs.
He finished the unusual 2004-05 hockey season with a second consecutive appearance at the World Championships with 8 points in 9 games as the team won Group D with wins over Switzerland, Germany and Kazakhstan (allowing just one goal in the process) and then added a win over Slovakia before dropping a 2-1 decision to Russia and rebounding a with a 5-1 win over Belarus in the Qualifying Round. In the playoffs, the Czechs defeated the United States 3-2 and then Sweden by the same score before shutting out Canada 3-0 in the final with Prospal scoring the game winning goal for the second World Championship gold medal of his career.
With the NHL back in action for the 2005-06 season, Prospal responded by setting a career high with 80 points from 25 goals and 55 assists. During that season he also made the only Olympic appearance of his career, earning a bronze medal at the 2006 Games in Italy while contributing 4 goals and 6 points in 8 games.
After a 55 point season for Tampa Bay in 2006-07, Prospal played in 62 games of the 2007-08 season (surpassing his 2006-07 point total by two in 20 less games) before he was traded back to his original club, the Flyers for the remainder of the season, scoring 14 points in 18 games.
Hard to believe, but the Flyers then traded Prospal to... the Lightning for his third stint with Tampa Bay! He played in all 82 games, scoring 18 goals and 45 points.
For the 2009-10 season, Prospal was on the move once again, only this time to a team new to him, the New York Rangers. He recorded his fifth and final 20 goal season with exactly 20 on his way to 58 points. He returned to New York to begin the 2010-11 season, but was limited to just 29 games and 23 points due to having knee surgery.
He was signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2011-12 season, where he had a 55 point season which included Prospal playing in his 1,000th NHL game.
For 2012-13, the NHL season was again interrupted by labor issues, and Prospal returned to HC Ceske Budejovice. In 19 games, he scored 23 points until the NHL season began in January and Prospal returned to the Blue Jackets for 48 games. He scored 12 goals and 30 points in what would be the final games of his career.
Prospal would retire with 1,108 games played with 255 goals and 510 assists with 765 points over 16 seasons. Additionally, he would win an Olympic bronze medal and two World Championship gold medals.
Today's featured jersey is a 2007-08 Tampa Bay Lightning Vaclav Prospal jersey as worn during his second of three stints he spent with the Lightning.
This jersey was first worn in 2007-08 when Reebok introduced their new Edge jersey system to much fanfare. Tampa Bay wore this style for four seasons until the look of the franchise underwent a complete makeover with a new version of their logo and new jerseys as well.
Prospal started his career with Philadelphia wearing #45 and then wore #13 with both Ottawa and Florida, the same number he wore in the minors with Hershey and the Phantoms, before taking #20 with Tampa Bay. He then wore #40 with Anaheim before returning to #20 when he went back to the Lightning for the second time. His return to the Flyers saw him wear #40, which he kept for his third time with Tampa Bay. It was back to #20 while with the Rangers and he wore #22 to finish his career in Columbus, the fifth jersey number of his career!