Sunday, November 25, 2007

team slovenia

i had an interesting experience yesterday. i wasn't in the lineup for slavia and so spent my pre-game time at the hotel down the street doing some emailing and chatting with home. when i arrived at the rink, i found the game delayed by an hour because slovenia had been waiting in prague for us at the home of the men's slavia club. our home ice is in kralupy, 50kms outside prague. anyways, it came to be known that triglav (the slovenian team) only had brought 7 players with them... on the 700km journey from triglav to prague. coach karel, a big grin on his face, asked me if i wanted to suit up for slovenia. i hesitated, paused a moment to think about it, shrugged my shoulders and said, SURE.

the game was a blow out, slavia beat us 13-1. but it was one of the most fun games i've played this year. women's hockey is small in slovenian (men's hockey is really big) and the women that play on the team play just because it's fun. for them, it's a hobby. and it was great for me to sit in their dressing room with them, soak up the lighthearted atmosphere and help to remind me why i love this game so much. with only 7 skaters, i got a TON of ice time. and playing slavia, an extremely fast team with 3 solid lines, i had a cardiovascular workout like i haven't had since i got here. lungs were definitely burning well into the night last night.

one cool thing that happened was in between the second and third i asked barbara, the slovenian who spoke perfect english and was a great gal, about their d-zone coverage. she said they didn't have one, so i started to suggest a basic coverage we could try. as i drew on the paper, every girl from the team got up and knelt and stood around me so that they could see what i was doing. barbara translated a little, though the girls could understand english, if not speak it. it was so fun to teach this basic hockey principal to this group of very open and teachable girls. we had more success trying to do that - things were calmer and somewhat under control in our zone after that. another fun part was telling the girls to play a box on d-zone coverage for penalty kill. they picked it up so fast and we were good at it! we held off 3 hc slavia powerplay lines until with 6 second left they finally put one in.

after the game, the girls thanked me and gave me a great little fleece triglav tuque to take home with me. they clapped and said they'd like to take me home with them... "we've got lots of great looking guys in slovenia!", barbara told me. when we're in slovenia two weeks from now on our italian/slovenian tour, barbara and i are going to go for coffee. yesterday was an unexpected blessing!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a sporting week

last saturday we had a rare day off. usually our weekends are filled with games and game prep, so we took the opportunity to take in some of the other athletics available in prague.

saturday afternoon we watched the Sparta Women's Basketball team play against Gambrinus Brno in what started out as a close game, but eventually turned into a 100-51 blow out. our friend from aia, erin, is the assistant coach on the team and we've gotten to know one of her players, nicole who is from the states, a little bit. if Sparta had had two of nicole, they might have won the game. she was great to watch. Brno boasted having a WNBA player from the states as well as 9 czech national team players.

after dinner at a pizza place in our neighbourhood, we headed to the Sparta fotbal field to take in a game: czech national team vs. slovak national team. i can now call myself a fotbal fan! seriously, the energy in that place was so exciting and the athleticism of those guys... whew, it was awesome! after each czech goal (they won 3-1, by the way) the whole stadium would get on their feet and yell this catchy chant that we obviously did not understand. we're learning czech, but when 17,000 people are yelling it, it's kind of hard to understand. but we joined in with the jumping, giggling and grinning and not quite knowing what was happening. we asked some of our teammates the next day and what the czechs were yelling was, "anyone who's not jumping isn't czech". good thing we joined in... those are some passionate fans. included at the game were a couple hundred police officers, officers on horses and tanks. thankfully none of the previously mentioned were needed, and after the 10 minute firework production everyone went home tired and happy (or to the bar to drink the night away - we took the former option).

the next sporting event was tuesday night when jackie and i hit up a Sparta Men's hockey game against Karlovy Vary. Sparta boasts the former nhl player, Petr Nedved. it was an exciting game with two goals in the third period, one to each team, to leave the game tied and force overtime. nothing come from the 4 on 4 ot, so a shoot out followed. karlovy vary ended up taking the game. it was an exciting night and again, czech fans love their teams! there was a section of the arena packed with fans wearing sparta gear and colours, pounding drums, swinging scarves, shouting and hollering the whole game. they put the cheerleaders to shame with their chants (yes, there were cheerleaders).

the sports scene in czech is full of passion and loyalty. something we could maybe learn from, eh rider fans?! speaking of which, we've figured out that the grey cup will be aired on a tsn station we can pick up over here. we're heading to a pub sunday night to watch the game at 11:30. even in czech, i guess us prairie girls still bleed green and white! :)