Volek was born in the former Czechoslovakia, where he played in 1983–84 for HC Slavia Prague. He later moved to HC Sparta Praha and became a member of the Czecholovakian national ice hockey team for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In 1988 he gained permission from the Czech authorities to visit his parents in West Germany and used this permission to defect to Canada. He joined the New York Islanders, having been selected by them in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1988–89.
Volek is best remembered for scoring an overtime goal that eliminated the favoured and two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins from the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs. The goal came at 5:16 of overtime in the seventh (and deciding) game of the second round of the playoffs. The Islanders have not won a playoff series since. CBC Hockey Night in Canada announcer Chris Cuthbert called Volek's play in a dramatic fashion:
|“||Samuelsson pass off a skate. Volek turns with Ferraro. Here they come, 2 on 1; Volek shoots, SCORES!!! David Volek, Islanders! And there’ll be a new Stanley Cup Champion in 1993!||”|
The next year, a herniated disc forced Volek to retire from the NHL. Volek finished his NHL career, which was spent exclusively with the Islanders, with 95 goals and 154 assists for 249 points. He underwent back surgery the following year in an attempt to return to the game, but after five games with HC Sparta Praha, he was forced to retire for good.
Volek has been the assistant coach of HC Sparta Praha since 2005. From his retirement from playing in 1996 until 2005 he was a scout.
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