It is the International Ice Hockey World Championships at the moment and they are being held in Prague. Plenty of middle aged men in their suitably large Ice Hockey shirts wandering around in groups of about ten.
I know very little about ice hockey other than it is like religion here in Czech Republic. Apparently there are leagues worldwide. The British have a team, Team GB Ice Hockey no less, and we are way down is division 4, the big boys who are playing in Prague right now have all the celebrity status of David Beckham and Christiano Renaldo combined! I kid you not.
We decided that, as tickets for all the Czech games sold out in a matter of hours when they first went on sale, we would head to the ‘Fanzone’ on Wencesles Square. The husband and I headed of for the 2.15pm puck off, purchased a quick sandwich and made a brisk walk for the big screen. Only to find we were two hours too early. Puck off was at 4.15pm, this gave us more beer drinking time and we were lucky enough to find a standing table to plop our beers and sandwiches on. The Czechs were playing the Germans – enough said! The Czechs really, I mean REALLY wanted to win. If the Czechs won against the Germans, then the Swiss were also through. Why this would happen I have no idea – but it would be fair to say there were more Swiss than Germans in the fanzone and we liked it that way.
The fanzone has been a busy place. It was a meeting point for teams when they were not playing. If your team were playing, you had a ticket, if your team had a day off, you did not want to miss the fun, therefore the fanzone offered beer, sausage, big screen and FANS of Ice hockey. I saw these lovely ladies watching a game before they headed off to support Sweden. With glamorous fans like these the players should feel very encouraged. I also sent the photo to eldest son, two beautiful beer drinking Swedish supporters, the stuff his dreams are made of.
Whilst we were there, we had been given by some pretty young thing, face tattoos of the Czech flag – we were taking going local to the next level. A couple of slightly nerdy looking, Swiss kit wearing dudes were wandering around wondering where to put their beers, we beckoned them over. We have lived in Switzerland for a couple of years and I have a modest command of German, not Swiss German, which is like a throat disorder all spitting and gargling sounds. Anyway, these dudes were from Valais the French speaking part, which meant we could happily chat in English and not feel too awkward about it. As the game progressed they were very happy to impart their wisdom upon us, which is how I came to know that the Swiss were as keen for the Czechs to win, as the Czech themselves.
The Czech team has a legendary player named Jagr. He wears a shirt with 68 on it, he has ever since he played as small ice hockey urchin. The year is symbolic to the Prague Spring of that year, when he Grandfather was put in prison and died that year. Jagr has played throughout the world, mostly in the USA making a some money along the way. He is so well loved by the Czechs that he was the flag bearer at the 2012 Olympics for the Czech Republic – we are talking super hero status. At the hockey match we were watching in the fanzone, some German player took a swing at Jagr, who is 44 the most mature hockey player going. He did not take kindly to this, he is the God of Czech ice hockey and someone had insulted him physically – as you can imagine, all hell broke loose all the referees were there, other players were in amongst it, hockey sticks waving in the air, Jagr’s helmet came off. The result was a couple of Czech players in the sin bin and a couple of Germans too, obviously different sin bins The crowd were incensed – there was lots of whistling going on, a true protest and the Czechs can do a good protest when it matters. The end result was that the Czechs beat the Germans by 4 – 2, so even the Swiss could celebrate!
Now as I write this last piece of the blog, I can sadly inform you that the USA beat Czech Republic in the semi-finals 3 – 0 to win Bronze, Russia then played Canada for the big prizes. In the end the favourites Canada won handsomely over the Russians.