NHL season cancelled - hockey stars remain in Czech clubs

17-02-2005

The remaining games of the North-American National Hockey League season have been cancelled after players and owners failed to agree a new collective bargaining deal. This is the first time since 1919 that the NHL top prize - the Stanley Cup will not be awarded. Many NHL players already decided months ago -when the lockout began - not to waste time and moved to different national ice hockey leagues around Europe. I talked to sport reporter Karel Knap from the paper Mlada Fronta Dnes, and asked him what the latest news means for the Czech NHL players who joined clubs back in the Czech Republic when the lock-out began.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the cancellation of the NHL season, photo: CTKCommissioner Gary Bettman announced the cancellation of the NHL season, photo: CTK "These players, who were playing here the last weeks, will stay here till the end of the season and will play the play-offs here. They are obviously very sad that the season in the NHL was cancelled, but they will play here till the end of the season, and they will try to win the league title here in the Czech Republic, as well as the world Championship - the tournament in Vienna."

Do you think that we can expect that perhaps some of the players will go to other countries as well? Jaromir Jagr, for example, is playing in Russia now.

"Not now, because the trade deadline was already in January. So the players from the Czech Republic are not allowed to leave the Czech league now. They will stay here till the end of the season. But they can play in foreign countries next season, if the NHL doesn't reopen the league."

How about the American and Canadian players, there is just Canadian player in the Czech National Hockey League now. Do you think we can expect that even more of them will come?

"Well that's the same problem. The players can not come here now to the Czech league because the trade deadline was in January, and there are no more moves possible.

Why are there so few Canadians and Americans playing in the Czech Ice Hockey League? I guess there are more of them in France or in Great Britain - in countries where there is ice hockey not as popular as in the Czech Republic.

"That may be a question of friendships of the players playing in France or Hungary or somewhere else. They can have friends there or it can be also a question of money. For example Russia or Switzerland can offer them more money than the Czech clubs. Another thing is that for example Pardubice, a hockey club in East Bohemia, talked to several NHL players - very good NHL players from the Canadian National Team but they were waiting to see how the situation in the NHL would end, and while they were waiting for Mr.Bettman's decision, the trading deadline passed."

What is the reaction of the Czech ice hockey teams, and of their coaches now that the NHL season is cancelled?

"It is certainly better for them that the best NHL players will stay in their hockey clubs. They've had them for most of the season and it would be tough for them to part with them just before the play-offs."

17-02-2005