Four months after the astonishing Ball Hockey show at the ISBHF World Championships in Pardubice, we can definitely say that Ball Hockey has become a mainstream sport in the Czech Republic. Great atmosphere, heroic performances of both Men’s and Women’s national teams and matches shown on Czech state television helped to break the attendance records for both Men’s and Women’s games and contributed to the growth of the sport in this well-established Ball Hockey power.
And of course, such a big event has led to many new opportunities for growth, changes and most importantly, also made Ball Hockey far more attractive for sponsors. The 11-team Czech Elite league has changed its name to CROSSDOCK Extraliga hokejbalu (=hokejbal is the Czech word for Ball Hockey), with CROSSDOCK, a logistics company, becoming the new general sponsor of the league. And although Michal Slanec will play in the Swiss league for yet another year and Lukas Heczko, the 2017 World Championships All-star team goalkeeper still destroys the hopes of the opponents of Martin in the Slovak league, the Czech CROSSDOCK Extraliga has attracted some players from abroad as well.
Kert Park Prague, last season’s champions, have acquired the 2017 World Champion Radovan Dejneka of Slovakia and so did SK Hokejbal Letohrad with their signing of Peter Doskocil on loan. Doskocil was in the Slovak 2017 WC nomination initially, but unfortunately missed the tournament due to a back injury.
But in Doskocil’s first match, the clash of those two teams streamed on Czech TV, it was him who was named the Man of the Match and contributed, together with goalkeeper Jan Simara and Ondrej Lux, to beating the offensive likes of Tomas Wrobel, Martin Krucek and Tomas Fejfar in the line-up of Kert Park Prague, leading Letohrad to a 3-2 win. This match could, so far, be considered as the match of the season, presenting top quality Ball Hockey on both sides. But how are the other Czech players who featured at the 2017 World Championships doing?
HBC ALPIQ Kladno, led by Drahomir Kadlec, who coached the national team as well, had to undergo some changes in defence after the departure of Tomas Kudela to Oberwil Rebels in Switzerland and Michal Dedic and Tomas Rejthar deciding to retire from competitive Ball Hockey. But their offensive power remained almost unchanged – Dominik Barnosak, Daniel Hnizdil, Radim Stepanik and Martin Spacek are all in the TOP12 league point scorers and provide a threat to every opponent coming to the renovated arena in Kladno. With Jan Jirotka in goal, they beat Jan Pospisil’s HBC Rakovnik in their opening match. However, Rakovnik, with the contribution of Pospisil (2+4 in 8 matches), the best defenseman of the 2017 World Championships, are successful in staying in the middle of the league table this year and avoiding the relegation battle.
The team from the 2017 WC host venue – HBC Autosklo–H.A.K. Pardubice, 2016 champions, have to rely on Lukas Vlasak’s and Ondrej Brezina’s defensive and attacking abilities respectively after it has become apparent that Pavel Kubes, the Czech captain, will not be able to play until January and Jan Bily, a star of the tournament, has decided to make a change and play floorball for a local club before returning back to the Pardubice A team. Pardubice are struggling to find success away from their home arena. On the other hand, Usti nad Labem, who beat Pardubice last weekend, can be pleased with their performance so far, considering the fact that they and are competing without Richard Peschout and Petr Svanda this season. They are currently 5th in their league table and so is their captain Lukas Soukup in the individual point scorers’ category.
Can you remember Petr Novak’s overtime championship-winning goal against India from the 2009 World Championships in Plzen? Well, he is back – together with another Czech legend, Jan Bacovsky, he now plays for Hradec Kralove and is the 3rd point scorer! The Hradec Kralove ‘Pirates’ have also won the Czech Cup in August, beating another Extraliga side Sudomerice comfortably 8-1, having a great start to the season.
The ISBHF fans can from now on expect a fortnightly report on the results and news in the Ball Hockey country of Czech Republic, the hosts of the U16 & U20 Girls World Cup in 2018!
Sources used: hokejbal.cz, ISBHF Administration materials, pardubice2017.com, pilsen2009.com, Facebook: hokejbal, hbcpce.cz
This is how the CROSSDOCK Extraliga hokejbalu table looks like at the moment:
|1.||HC Kert Park Praha||6||22||13||14|
|2.||HBC Hradec Kralove 1988||6||21||14||13|
|3.||HBC ALPIQ Kladno||5||25||7||12|
|4.||HBC Rondo Most||7||22||19||11|
|5.||Elba DDM Usti nad Labem||7||18||22||10|
|8.||SK Hokejbal Letohrad||6||13||13||8|
|10.||HBC Autosklo-H.A.K. Pardubice||6||11||20||7|
|11.||TJ KOVO Praha||6||9||18||5|