Jam-packed Czech prominence
Article - Jam-packed Czech prominence
The two-time Spengler Cup champion Sparta Praha returns to Davos with a strong team after a ten-year absence - and will look to gain momentum during their trip to Switzerland towards winning their first championship title since 2007.
Sparta Praha is one of the oldest ice hockey teams in the world, founded in 1903 by a speed skater. In the early days the players did not chase a puck - on the contrary: it was a rubber ball. The Spengler Cup has also played an important role in the club’s long history, winning the traditional tournament in 1962 and 1963. And after the turn of the millennium the team belonged to the regulars with five participations between 2000 and 2006. In the meantime ten years have passed since their last visit, thus the excitement for a rendezvous. And Sparta should be more than simply a familiar-sounding name: in 2020/21 the team under former Czech national team coach Josef Jandac was eliminated in the semifinal after winning the group stage. The desire to win their first title since 2007 has been reinforced. The squad counts several players with Swiss pasts: the former NHL centre Vladimir Sobotka played for the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, Michal Repik once powered EV Zug (and signed in Gottéron in 2017, but never made an appearance). The technically gifted winger has been Sparta’s captain for two years, averaging more than point per game in 2020/2021. Then there is the Slovak defenseman Milan Jurcina, who had a brief stint in Gottéron. And since this summer also the the Swede Erik Thorell, who just recently captured the championship with EV Zug.
Jurcina (Boston, Washington, New York Islanders), Sobotka (Boston, St. Louis, Buffalo) and Repik (Florida) are all part of a surprisingly large fraction of the Sparta squad with an NHL past: in addition, David Kase (Philadelphia), Roman Horak (Calgary), Filip Chlapik (Ottawa) and goaltender Alexander Salak (Florida) played in the world’s best league, illustrating the high quality density of the roster.
No Czech team has won the Spengler Cup since Dukla Jihlava in 1982, though Sparta did advance to the final in 2004, where -in the year of the lockout - they fell to the arguably best HCD team of the modern age with Joe Thornton, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Niklas Hagman. That might change in 2021 - it would be ludicrous to underestimate this strong team.
Text: SLAPSHOT / Nicola Berger Bild: Sparta Prag