Friday, February 24, 2012

Czeching Out Some Hockey

I have been horrible at keeping the blog updated as of late. It seems to be the norm after the novelty of living in a place wears off for me. It happened in both Australia and Korea, but I vow not to let it happen for my time in Kuwait. It is an especially different case considering most of my travel stories will be about places outside of Kuwait. Truth be told, I am extremely busy. I am not using that as an excuse however. I could still manage to find time to dedicate something of substance to the blog.

Right now I still have at least one story to share about my Christmas trip to Egypt. I am going to get back to that eventually. I just had a 2 week winter vacation in Europe that I am itching to share.
The purpose of the trip was to meet up with old friends and to see some of Europe’s professional hockey. There are four professional hockey leagues outside of the NHL that are fairly competitive. The top of these is the KHL in Russia. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to see a KHL game, but I planned on seeing at least one game in the 3 other leagues. This desire brought me to Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden where the Czech Extralgia, SM liiga and Swedish elite leagues were hopefully awaiting my visit.
My first stop was Prague, in the Czech Republic. This was not my first visit to Prague as I had visited back in the summer of 2010. The purpose of this trip was solely for hockey. It was nice when I got out of the airport to see the sprinkle of snow on the ground and the fresh cold air filling my lungs. The snow didn’t last however as once I got into the city it was pretty much all gone.

Unfortunately I was misinformed prior to arriving in Prague and was unable to see a game there. I did manage however to take the bus to a smaller city to see a game. I arrived in Ceske Budejovice and I had no idea where the stadium was, so I asked around. I went into a hotel and asked and was given a map. The lady circled where a stadium was and told me that was where I needed to go. She didn’t circle the right arena but luckily the way I walked took me right past Budvar Arena, the actual arena I wanted to go to.
I got to the game really early and grabbed a program and just sat at my seat for a while. I was early enough to see the teams do their pregame skate before returning to their dressing rooms. I went to the concession stand to have something for dinner and to see what they served there compared to home. There were a lot of odd things. I decided on this massive sausage that I was not sure how to go about eating. It was not like a hot dog back home, it was larger and didn’t come in a bun. It did come with a piece of bread and was super greasy. I held it with the piece of bread so as to not get grease all over my hands and began eating it. It was good enough—kind of spicy—and it filled the void in my stomach.

Looking at the program I was hoping I could see a name I recognized or a fellow Canadian. I saw both, although there was only one Canadian mentioned in the program and none of the players in the game were familiar. I wasn’t really expecting that but I did recognize the name Petr Sykora and assumed it was the Petr Sykora who currently plays for the New Jersey Devils.It turns out I was mistaken by this, someone who shares his name played for that team. The home team featured at one time former NHL goalie Roman Turek. Turek played for the home team after his 9 year NHL career.

The level of play was okay, but I did find that the shooting and passing was not as crisp as the NHL. It isn’t really fair to compare it to the top league in the world, but really that is all I can compare it to. For being my first live professional game in over 5 years it was entertaining enough. I unfortunately had to leave the game after the second period—with the score 2-1 for the home team—in order to catch my bus and ensure I did not miss my flight to Finland.