The Czech Republic played Canada for the World Championship last night. This was a big, big game, more so than most years because usually the best players are all still playing in the NHL playoffs at this time of year. This year there was no NHL, and this tournament boasted national teams packed with incredible lines. It was like having several hockey dream teams at once. Kazakhstan, not so much. Their goalkeeper’s pads were falling apart, but they stepped up, playing for pride and the joy of the game.
I had a connection to tickets through my brother but uncertainty about how many tickets we could get and the arrival of some guests made me yield my seat. Instead, Houvi, Jason, and I decided to find a bar and cheer along with the locals. I knew it would not be easy to find a place, but I didn’t appreciate how difficult it would be. For a while I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to put this episode in the bars of the world tour category. Every bar in the city with a TV was completely reserved. Fortunately the little cafe near my house is not by any stretch a sports bar. All the tables were reserved, but no one had thought to reserve the bar stools yet. I got there early and did some writing before things started to get crazy.
My guests, only in town for two nights, got a big dose of hockey while they were here, the two semi-final games the night before and then the championship, and of course they got a fairly large dose of czech beer as well. While we were sitting at the bar before the final game started, I realized their whirlwind trip would not be complete until they experienced Slivovice (rhymes with sleaze o’ Bitsy) and Becherovka (rhymes with medicine), the two national boozes. Slivovice is a type of plum vodka; it is generally agreed that the best stuff is homemade. Looking, I didn’t see any bottles of the stuff on the bar shelves, so I asked the bartender “Máte Slivovice?” “No,” she said nodding (rhymes with yes). Then she added, “something something hezký Äesky something something something.” I think she was complimenting me on my czech. I stared at her blankly, wondering if there was any point asking her to repeat what she had said. There was no time for that, though.
The game started, the Good Guys scored first but the Canadians were putting the pressure on. The Canadian team was very, very strong, but there were a couple of the best players in the world that chose not to represent the great white north. I wonder how they felt watching their team come close time and again yet fail to score, knowing that it wouldn’t have taken much to tip the balance. Serves them right. Sitting on their asses all winter and then choosing not to represent their country. I only wish the kazakhstan team had beaten them. On the Czech side my main man Prospal (rhymes with Magic) was doing his usual job making everyone on the ice with him better.
The Canadians were playing a (relatively) physical game. The Czechs were up for it though, and were finishing their checks as well. The Slivovice came, Jason liked it, then the Becherovka came, which Huovi preferred. “The next team to score will win the game,” I said while it was still 1-0. They played on. Suddenly, the way it happens in hockey, without warning, the Czechs scored again. Even that little bar, filled with a less-avid form of hockey fan, even that place went nuts.
The Czechs scored once more, and empty-netter (I think) to win 3-0, and claim the championship of the world. A more meaningful championship than usual, and there was much rejoicing (rhymes with beer).