Ever since Peter Stastny defected from Czechoslovakia in 1980 with his wife and younger brother, Anton, he has been more than just another hockey player. He was the leader of a dynamic Quebec Nordiques team in the 1980s, an international hockey legend and a proud fighter against the Soviet bloc. Stastny even represented Slovakia in the European Parliament after retiring as a player.
Now that he's retired from hockey and politics, he's enjoying a variety of activities, from playing tennis to watching his favorite baseball player, Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols. But Stastny gets the most enjoyment from watching his son, St. Louis Blues forward Paul Stastny, and his team battle their way through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 6 of the conference finals between the Blues and San Jose Sharks goes Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET.
Just because he's retired doesn't mean Peter Stastny, 59, has stopped standing up for what he believes in. In a recent conversation with ESPN.com, Stastny shared his thoughts on watching his son, the Blues' prospects and supporting the players who followed him in Slovakia.
ESPN.com: What's it like to watch your son enjoy a lengthy playoff run?
Stastny: It's really enjoyable. A lot of fun. The worst thing is when they play in the Midwest at 7 p.m, which is 2 a.m. in Bratislava. It's in the dead of the night. Paul is playing fantastic. I love watching him. He is just doing what he is supposed to do. He is producing tons of scoring chances, playing well and responsibly dominating faceoffs.
ESPN.com: How often have you talked to him this season?
Stastny: We talked a lot before his decision to change teams when he was a free agent. One of the reasons was that [the Blues] really wanted him. We talked about how good a team they have. It was a team that, in the next few years, could be playing for a Cup. That is the objective. That is the dream of every hockey player.
ESPN.com: What would it mean if Paul got a chance to play for the Stanley Cup?
Stastny: That would mean so much for me. I don't want to put pressure on him, but that would be really joyous. He still has plenty of time to do it because they do have a very strong and balanced team with a lot of experience and firepower. Maybe not any superstars, but they can run three lines and create havoc and opportunities and create pressure. Any of these lines can win the game.
ESPN.com: You admit you didn't know anything about baseball before coming to Canada, but you love Albert Pujols. How did that happen?
Stastny: I met him briefly. That's why I like him even more. I brought the Slovak prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, to a baseball game and the general manager took us around. This was about eight years ago. Albert seemed like a really neat guy. Very humble. He helped me understand baseball. And he was so good, especially his unbelievable numbers with the home runs and RBIs and batting percentage. Now he is older but he can still have some spectacular performances. I watched him in St. Louis and now I follow him in Southern California.
ESPN.com: You sacrificed so much by defecting from Czechoslovakia. How often did your children ask you about this decision?
Stastny: They understand really well, especially now. They told me how much they appreciated my speech at my daughter's wedding. That was one of the reasons I left, just to provide my children with opportunity and freedom. [To] not have the regime of a country dictate [their] ideology and values. That was horrible. I realized I had to go. My wife was pregnant at the time and I didn't want my children to grow up with a split personality -- values taught at home and [different] values taught by the regime. I had it in my speech and it was a wonderful time.
ESPN.com: You were involved with Slovakia's national team, which has struggled lately in international competition. What do you think happened?
Stastny: We have people around Slovakian hockey who are former communist apparatchiks and KGB officers. They control the country and they control hockey as an instrument to control society.
ESPN.com: You have been outspoken about how you feel about Juraj Siroky, the former president of the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation.
Stastny: He was one of the highest spies in Washington, D.C., for the communist regime. Now he is one of the richest people in Slovakia. He stepped aside, but the guy who is there right now, Igor Nemecek -- [it] is the same thing. Hockey needs direction, hockey needs smart people. We are a small country. But luckily for Slovakia we have strong tradition and history and a strong foundation to build on. Management and the top brass are just awful.
ESPN.com: What exactly is the problem you see with them?
Stastny: These people don't care about hockey. They care about themselves. They set the level so low so they could prove they were doing a good job. They were happy with mediocrity. When I was leaving [the national team] in 2006 after the Olympics in Turino, Slovakia was the No. 3-ranked country in the world. That's not an accident. So we were very solid and a consistent team that performed year in and year out. They pushed me aside [as general manager], and with that the hockey went down. Now they're in ninth, 10th, 11th position. They were saying, "This is where we belong." This was insulting people like me and other people who understand that Slovak potential is much higher than this.
ESPN.com: What do you think might happen with Siroky and Nemecek?
Stastny: IIHF actually elected [Siroky] as a chief auditor of the IIHF. Can you imagine that? ... Just awful. Our top 50 players stood up and they refused to represent the country unless there was a new congress and Nemecek leaves.
ESPN.com: It looks like you have a lot of the passion you had for questioning authority when you played.
Stastny: The passion is something you never lose. You either have it or you don't. I love my ice hockey, I love my country, I love my family and I love my faith. These are the pillars of my life and I'll always be passionate about them. I will do whatever it takes to help or be productive or help in any way I can.