Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And So, It Began

The Scotty Hockey Eurotrip 2011 got underway yesterday. It would be easy to rant about the horrors of travel but let me just put it this way: left my house at 12:45 Monday, got into my hotel room around 2:30 Tuesday. Even with the time change, that is atrocious.

The one good thing is the sunrise over Spain that I was able to witness (the shot above doesn't do it justice). Luckily the start of Tuesday and the end to it was both fantastic.

During the planning stages of the excursion many minutes were spent combing international sports schedules to maximize this trip. And yet still, I missed something so obvious as a hockey game in Prague the night of my arrival. By sheer dumb lucky I stumbled around the interweb and found that there was a match at the odd start time of 6:15 tonight. Slavia Praha, the Prague-based Extraliga team that the Rangers aren't facing Thursday, was at home at the O2 Arena to face HC Verva Litvinova. The O2 was where the Blueshirts took on the Bolts two years ago and it really is a nice facility.

So, of course, I rushed out of my room to head to the game. And what a good move it was. The match was a real wild one, wild one. Given that I haven't really slept in more than 32 hours, I will just throw some random thoughts out there:

*The cheapest seats in the house were behind the away net, in the fan section where they sang and clapped all game long. Could you imagine that being the case in the Garden?

*The beautiful, relatively new arena holds just over 17,000 and yet there was less than 4,000 in attendance. Felt like a non-Rangers Devils game.

*Slavia's sweaters are jersey fouls - the front is a frankenjersey, half white and half red.

*Rosi Ruzicka is their head coach, he is a hero to the fans and he is a slob. The guy took the bench looking like he left a wine bar at 4am.

*Speaking of fashion, I wish I had a good picture of Slavans mascot because it is horrifying. The ice girls, however, make up for it by wearing even less than the tainted ladies employed by the Islanders.

*The one and likely only player you would recognize on either team's roster was Litvinova's Marty Rucinsky. Yes, Marty Rucinsky - the two-time Ranger - is still in action. He has still has the ice sight and some hands but the rest of the game has clearly suffered with age. Marty is slower than ever, he tries to do too much by himself every shift, and he was foolish enough to take a late penalty that set up the game-tying power play goal with seven and a half minutes later. His teammates were able to bail him out by regaining the advantage less than a minute later on a laser of a shot but the days of Marty being a star are sadly gone. He had his good moments with the Rangers.

*The only other name I recognized was Petr Kalus, a former Minnesota Wild prospect. Kalus ended up in an exciting brawl with five seconds left. A couple of guys started shoving after the whistle and that turned into a pair of great fights - one while the gladiators were both wrapped up by linesmen but still landing huge punches. I hope that ends up on Youtube.

*All fans had to go through metal detectors to get in - not just that half-assed wave-around the Garden gives to a few random people, but legitimate metal detectors. I asked the guard about it and he said the Prague fans are usually good but the ones from Greece have caused trouble in the past. Greek hockey fans? What? Maybe something was lost in translation. (Just a note, not every Czech speaks English despite what your friends say.)

*Having the fans singing, banging drums and clapping all game is really a neat experience but it was too bad I had no idea what they were saying and that they had to be led by some dude with a bullhorn and his back to the game.

*After it was over the teams saluted each other, then shook hands, then turned around and saluted their respective fans. I can't imagine that happening in North America - the away team wins, then slides across the ice in unison to mug for their fans. Someone would get hurt.

I'm sure there was more but the Rangers have an open practice in the morning (and, of course, are charging admission) so I will be on my way. Y'all take care of things on your side of the pond!


Luke said...

Glad to hear you are enjoying the start of your trip.

Hockey on the Continent is a fantastic experience. I went to a game in Garmisch, Germany, last season. The arena had seating along its length but standing terraces behind either net. The home and away fans were standing behind either net and singing, chanting & mocking each other the entire game. It was like having a soccer crowd at a hockey game, incredible stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great idea to catch a Czech game but you were defiantly unlucky it was Slavia (team seriously on the slide compared to a couple of years ago with money problems)and LitvĂ­nov (middle of the road team at a push). Basically every team here has a 'hardcore' section of fans who'll sing & chant all game but how many people do it depends very much on how the team's doing of course!

P.S. most stadiums are smaller than the O2 (average around 7000) so the atmosphere is great. Slavia big stadium is something of a disadvantage... When my local team (Brno kometa) play there we outnumber them 10000 - 4000 ish ! ! !

great post and keep blogging from Europe when you can !