Ever since I got to the CZ I have wanted to go to an ice hockey match. The Czechs have a love of hockey, second only to that of their love for football (soccer), and since I am not a big soccer fan I wanted to experience their second favorite sports pasttime. Last night, I finally got the opportunity to do so because Liberec has a local team and they were playing. They had played before last night, of course, but lack of cash and knowledge as to how to obtain tickets had kept me from experiencing the spectacle of live hockey in the CZ, but thanks to my colleague and office mate:
I was finally able to check that off my “to do in the CZ” list. The arena where the Bili Tygri Liberec (the Liberec White Tigers) play is very modern and very nice. It reminded me of many American sports arenas, and unlike American sports venues the beer and food are priced about the same as in town. For example, a beer at a pub costs between 25-35 kc, and the same brand beer at the arena cost 32kc. So that was a nice surprise. I had two beers because I had not eaten and I did not want to be too crazy at my first foreign hockey game, especially considering that the crowd was fairly mild in their attitude. There was very little noise or cheering (except for when goals were scored) in the arena; it was all very civilized (maybe a little too civilized, according to my colleague, Tomas, as he likened it to sitting in a movie theater not a sports arena, I compared it to teaching English at the University–he laughed and agreed that the crowd was as passive as our students).
My ticket to the game so all of you can see what Czech writing looks like:
Despite the passivity of the crowd, the game was a good one. Mlada Boleslav (henceforth referred to as the bad guys) scored first and earl: 54 seconds or so into the opening period. The Tygri (henceforth referred to as the good guys) scored a few minutes later on a power play. And it was none other than Petr Nedved, a professional hockey player who played for the Canucks, the Penguins, and the New York Rangers, among others during a 15 year NHL career. Sure he is past his prime, but it was still lots of fun to see an old NHL great on the ice, stirring things up and scoring.
There was a lot of enthusiasm on the ice from both teams, lots of pushing and shoving, and even a fight. Well, it wasn’t much of a fight because only one person was throwing punches while the other hit the ice and covered. This is what happened:
With about two minutes left in the game, and the good guuys ahead by a goal there was a face off in their zone. The bad guys sent a player on to the ice who had not played all game (obviously he was there just to start a fight, get some momentum for his team, and get one of the better good guy players–Nedved–off the ice for the rest of the game) to take the face off. Well, instead of going for the puck, he just went after Nedved, who in turn fell to the ground and turtled. He knew what the bad guys were trying to do, and was smart enough to swallow his pride and take some punches. This resulted in a five minute penalty for the bad guys, and a power play for the good guys. They did not score on the PP, but it doesn’t matter because at this point the fate of the game was sealed. I wanted to take a video of the fight, but I couldn’t get my camera ready in time. I did however get a shot of the equipment left on the ice:
Other highlights of the game included two penalty shots. One from the good guys and one from the bad guys. I had a nice angle on the good guy’s penalty shot and was able to catch a video, but unfortunately I cannot share it with you because I cannot figure out how to upload the video to this website. Just know that it was a bad attempt and the good guy did not score. The bad guy, of who I have no video did score, and that was disappointing. But the Tygri won, so it really doesn’y matter.
And, there were cheerleaders at the game. It was kind of funny because they were young, some really young like 8-12, and others a little older like 15-17. I had to take a picture of some of the older ones for the hell of it; they were a little far away so they are kind of hard to see, but here you go anyway:
All in all it was a fun experience, even if the crowd was somewhat subdued. And I look forward to enjoying many more hockey games while I am here in Liberec. And I leave you with a shot of the crowd to show that while the stadium was not full, it did have a fair amount of folks there, about 5,000 out of what is probably a max 6,000 person arena.