Yesterday was one of the first of what was to be a number of daunting travel days over the next week or so. Not only was it my last hockey game for three days, but it signalled the end of my time out East for a while, as my route winds its way towards Western Austria.
|Home of Sparta and Lev. I felt dirty being there.|
It was an incredibly strange journey though. I had to change trains in Breclav, which was nothing untoward, but the train from Breclav to Prague seemed racked with problems, notwithstanding the fact that it was around an hour late getting into Prague itself. On the side of the train it said that it was stopping at Ceska Trebisova and Pardubice, but we never made it to those stations, instead, spending around half an hour stuck at the provincial backwater of Caslav, seemingly waiting for nothing at all. The train was deserted for the whole trip though, as I had a whole six person compartment for myself.
With the game starting at seven, I eventually got into Prague at just gone four, so I hopped onto the underground and headed for the Novotel hotel, where I’ve stayed once before, and where I know the WiFi password. I bought the cheapest drink on the menu and hoarded the free wifi for around half an hour before making my way up towards the Tipsport Arena to meet up with Canadian and fellow EuroHockey colleague Derek O’Brien. After about half an hour that seemed to cover every major issue in world hockey, it was time to walk the short distance to the rink, where I was introduced to every Czech hockey journalist in the country it seemed. Names I’d heard about but were now finally meeting, including a writer from Orli Znojmo, who gave me the full rundown on Mike Danton. Thanks to Derek being able to pull a few strings I was able to get into the game for free as well, although my ticket wasn’t actually there, the guy giving out the tickets just seemed to be fed up so gave me a ticket out of sheer apathy.
|Lev Praha won a dire 1:0 game.|
So that all happened, and I haven’t even covered the game. Although to be honest, there’s not a lot to say. It was a really tepid affair, with Lev scoring in the first period through Jakub Klepis, whose one timer was far too hot for Erik Ersberg to handle, and after that, Lev just seemed to be content with clearing the puck to the neutral zone as soon as they came under any pressure. Donbass were incredibly blunt going forward though. The only good thing about the team on the ice was their jersies. The most interesting things for me were off the ice, such as the hilarious music choices by the DJ at the game. Not only did they play Kalinka numerous times, but a techno version of Katyusha, as well as Ruslana. They also played Tarzan Boy, which in my opinion is the greatest goal song ever since the Slovakian side had it as their goal song at the World Juniors in Alberta last Christmas. The Donbass coach was also amusing, as he started pulling hilarious shapes whenever he wanted to signal a line change.
It was 1:0 in the third period, and with the game having no real atmosphere, the three of us decided that we would go and support Donbass for the third period, and go and stand with their 10 or so fans in the away end. To be fair to them, they tried their best to support their team, but they did need some motivation to start singing. Venca was incredibly good at either getting them to shout Shaibu or Vpered Donbass. The game would finish with Lev taking it 1:0, of what was the worst game of my trip so far.
So the game was over, and I still had around three hours to kill before my night train back to Vienna left from Hlavni Nadrazi, so I was asked if I wanted to go to the tea room. I was quite bemused at first, but something was obviously lost in translation, as it turned out to be quite a hip place which also did shisha. A good two hours there chatting about anything and everything was a really enjoyable way to spend my evening, which I had not expected at all, and with even better company.
From there, it was back to the station, time to say goodbye to Betty and Venca, and then board my six hour night train to Vienna Westbahnhof. Precariously placed on a mattress around 2/3rds the width and 2/3rds the length of a single mattress, I can unequivocally say that it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, but I’ve no complaints really. From there, it was onto the Railjet to my next destination, Bregenz, right on the Swiss border, where I will hopefully be catching up with some of the Austrians I met out in Ljubljana for the World Championships in April.
And then Switzerland awaits.
That’s all for now,