Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr has played his first game in eight years in the Czech domestic league. Jágr – who is newly signed with the Dallas Stars – received the go-ahead only at the ‘last minute’ from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, news website idnes reported. He and other players sought permission to play elsewhere in light of the current NHL lockout. Jágr is playing for his home town club of Kladno; on Tuesday the team lost 3-2 against Slavia at a game held at Prague’s O2 Arena. Jágr admitted exhaustion after the match but made clear he was glad to be playing for the Czech club.
In Sports News this Monday: Czechs beat Argentina to reach Davis Cup finals; in football, Plzeň controversially beats Sparta Prague in Gambrinus Liga; Czech hockey fans look forward to NHL stars coming home to play during lockout; and in athletics, Olympic javelin champion Barbora Špotáková returns to her roots and stets her new personal best in heptathlon.
Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr and Kladno will play several league matches at a Prague’s O2 arena this season, reports news website idnes. The reason is to allow a far greater number of fans view the club’s league matches, including one of the sport’s biggest stars. According to the daily, other Czech players like Tomáš Plekanec, Marek Židlický and Tomáš Kabrle could also play in the Czech league given developments in the NHL where a lockout appears increasingly likely as time for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out.
The 20th season of the Czech hockey extraliga begins on Thursday with a match between last year’s runners-up Kometa Brno and newcomers Chomutov. Commentators see no apparent favourites of the season but expect Sparta Prague, Pardubice and Třinec to play for the title. The top hockey division has slightly changed the relegation system for the new season; two best teams from the second top league, instead of one, will this year play two worst extraliga teams for spots in the top division.
The newly-formed hockey club Lev Praha has made its debut in the Kontinental Hockey League. The first Czech-based team to join the KHL got two wins out of its three home games before setting off on a tour of Russia and Belarus. But has the new club also succeeded in bringing Czech hockey fans to see KHL action in Prague?
Czech hockey player František Kaberle, a five-time world champion and a Stanley Cup winner, has ended his career. The 38-year-old defenceman, who in the last season played for HC Plzeň in the Czech top division, said a series of minor injuries prevented him from getting fully into training. In the NHL, Kaberle played for the Atlanta Thrashers, the Los Angeles Kings and the Carolina Hurricanes with whom he won the Stanley Cup before returning to the Czech Republic in 2009. As part of the Czech national team, František Kaberle also won a bronze medal at the 2006 winter Olympics in Torino.
Three streets in Prague’s Dolní Chabry district will be named after Czech hockey players who lost their lives in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy last year. Josef Vašíček, Jan Marek, Karel Rachůnek and 40 others (including crew members) on board their plane died at the scene when the aircraft crashed during take-off; one of two survivors died later in hospital. All three of the Czech players were added to the Czech Hockey Hall of Fame last year; the decision to name streets in their honour was taken by the Prague council.
For 20 years there was only one route for world class Czech ice hockey players – west. But since the creation of the Continental Hockey League in Russia 4 years ago, this once clear system is being ever more distorted. Increasing numbers of European and even American stars now decide to head east rather than into the NHL and it is not only players that seem to be flocking to the Eurasian league, but teams as well. Most recently the first Czech club to join was HC Lev Praha.
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