By Mary Paoletti
PRAGUE -- I am not used to seeing Bruins fans in Prague yet.
There were some out this morning, wandering around the sun-streaked Charles Bridge. Because I've been here before, I have certain expectations for the way things are supposed to look. It's strange to me that the Franz Kafka statue now has "ART IS WAR" spray painted across his right leg. So when I see a family in Bruins windbreakers posing in front of "The Lamentation of Christ," it throws me off a little.
There are fewer 'Yotes fans. My guess at the ratio is 3:1 Boston to Phoenix.
The pregame scene at O2 Arena, site of this auspicious NHL Premiere 2010, is also a degree off from "normal."
People are milling around outside two hours before game time. They wear Chara shirts, Bourque jerseys; they drape Bruins scarves around their necks--all the usual gear--but I'm put completely on tilt when I hear these "Boston fans" speaking in Czech.
At least I think it's Czech. Oh Thursday morning I spoke with a Slovakian woman, a group of Scots and some Swedish businessmen before I found someone native to Prague.
It reminds me of the story Claude Julien told Wednesday about Europeans being so happy to see good hockey that they'll give applause to whichever team finds the back of the net.
Another difference? Many of the people are sitting around, waiting to get it. There aren't any bars around; there's no Fours, Porters or Sully's Tap to gather in for pregame drinking. Maybe nobody wants to take the time to figure out how many korunas a Guinness costs. Or maybe it's just a complete absence of hockey culture.
In a way it makes sense.