By Mary Paoletti
Krejci's street hockey clinic is next on our agenda. I don't have much for details so can only envision an event put on for children, you know, the typical PR goodwill effort.
But first we have to get there.
Prague is a scenic walking city, sure, but a cab is the best option when you're late no matter where in the world you're traveling. My cabbie (still don't know the Czech word) happens to be a hockey player... pads and stick in the trunk tipped me off. When we tell him where we need to go, he jumps in "I play street hockey.' Hockey ball', it's called in Prague," he tells us. It's a funny little coincidence. Then it gets interesting.
"You know Vladimir Ruzicka?" the cabbie asks.
"Rosie!" we say. "He was a great player for the Bruins."
The driver goes on to tell us how he's known Rosie Ruzicka since he was a young boy and how they grew up together, as he weaves in and out of crowds of people (yes, people, not cars) to take us to Old Town Square.
"Prosim," I say in thanks. Not quite sure if it's for the ride, the story, or that he didn't kill us all.
The hockey ball clinic is not at all what I expected. A "rink" has been created to cover up the beautiful unevenness of the city's cobblestone. Fans gather around the outside and are cheering loudly by the time we get there. There is a stage on one side that boasts the NHL event in Prague and a small Czech man with a big booming voice thanks to the PA system. He announces that Krejci, Chara, Marco Sturm and Nolan Schaefer are the Bruins representatives for the day. They walk out into the rink and sit down in their wheelchairs.
The guys they're going up against are also in wheelchairs--they just don't have a choice. Whether by amputation, paralysis, or some other misfortune, the four hockey ballers going against some of Boston's pros (and both goalies) are all handicapped.
But not when it comes to the sport. The Czech players have Krej and his men in fits. Marco Sturm is so slow trying to wheel after the whiffle ball-puck that it's funny to watch. Krej's lack of mobility is just as hilarious. Their opponents, however, survive by their upper body strength and are pivoting and flying around the rink with ease.
The thing all these men share is a desire to win. There is plenty of laughing and grinning--as I watch my own smiling is relentless enough to hurt my cheeks --but the "clinic" was competitive. At one point Chara gets so frustrated by a missed goal that he slaps his stick down on the ground. And Krejci's joy when the Bruins finally answer the Czech team with a goal of their own is sincere.
I have no idea who won the game. It's a good thing that wasn't really the point of the event.