The 1989 draft was held in Minnesota, and Andrea, who was living in the Twin Cities at the time because Musil was playing for the North Stars, attended it. When Bobby was picked, she immediately called him. Bobby, who had had contact with Hartford scout Jiri Chra, a family friend from Czechoslovakia who tended goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1970s, was not surprised. The revolution, which would not occur for another six months, was unforeseen, but the Whalers had confidence that they would not have to wait long to acquire Bobby's services. "Believe me," says Hartford general manager Eddie Johnston, "it wasn't a big gamble."
Holik told the Whalers that he would leave Czechoslovakia as soon as his two-year military obligation was completed, in 1991. That way he would be a defector, not a deserter. Early last year, Lendl returned to Czechoslovakia and interceded on Holik's behalf with top government officials. Holik's hitch was reduced to one year, and he signed with the Whalers during a visit to Hartford last March.
The Whalers see Holik becoming a dynamic worker who will get 40 goals a year and hit and check. Pushed by his father and briefed by his brother-in-law, Holik has dedicated himself to the point of obsession. Learning how to succeed in the NHL has been difficult. Learning how to fail has been even harder. "He can't get to sleep after we lose," says left wing Todd Krygier, Holik's roommate and linemate. "His mind is always on hockey. Oh, I think he's still enjoying himself. He can't get over all the flavors there are of bubble gum, and he has his Discman, of course, but he's not caught up in all the material stuff. I'll tell you where his head is at. With his signing money, he bought his dad a Mercedes and his mom a Peugeot. He bought himself a Chevy Beretta."
After that overtime loss to Buffalo at the Hartford Civic Center, the Whalers showered, dressed, gave curt answers to reporters' questions and headed home. Holik, though, lay on the floor of the locker room, contorting his body. "My father gave me these exercises," he said as his teammates departed. "We can talk while I stretch."
Sitting on the floor with his legs straight out before him, Holik leaned forward, extending his hands to his calves. He was reaching, as always, for his dream.