Miroslav Ihnacak ended his flight from Czechoslovakia Friday, held an emotional airport reunion with his brother and bought a pair of hockey skates before donning a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.
Officials of the National Hockey League club, meanwhile, had little to say about how Ihnacak, who is considered one of the best wings in Czechoslovakian hockey, escaped to Vienna with his young fiancee and hid in the Austrian capital for a week.
Ihnacak, 23, and Eva Olach, 21, arrived here with Maple Leaf General Manager Gerry McNamara. They left Czechoslovakia in a hurry, without any baggage--or even his skates.
Team owner Harold Ballard would not comment directly on reports that he had paid more than $100,000 to intermediaries in Vienna who helped Ihnacak and Olach.
"We don't pretend to say how we got him out or when we got him out," Ballard told reporters. "We got him, and that's the main thing."
Ihnacak, whose older brother Peter defected three years ago to play for Toronto, met McNamara in Vienna a week ago, after defecting from his homeland. McNamara signed the young star to a multiyear contract and set about trying to obtain a special immigration permit to allow him to enter Canada.
Canadian officials initially refused to give the case special attention but relented after Ihnacak said he feared for his safety.
"Wouldn't we all have felt great if they would have been swept off the street by the KGB and taken back where he would have spent three years in jail," McNamara said.
At a news conference, where he appeared in team sweater No. 27, Ihnacak said he had been "impatient and worried" in Vienna but was happy to be in Canada. His older brother interpreted.
Peter Ihnacak said his brother was a virtual prisoner in Czechoslovakia because of earlier defections by two sisters and another brother. He said Ihnacak's passport was held by authorities and he was allowed to play hockey only in Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union.