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An American Hockey Dream

American family of MIROSLAV DURAK

(04-01-01 ada) Miroslav Durak, a Slovak national junior team player who played in World Championship U-20 in Moscow and Podolsk had an American dream. His host family tell us an interesting story. (Ceska verze je zde)

I am not much of a writer, but I will try and tell you our story and you can decide if you want to use it. Please let me know if you have any questions about what I have written. I don't work on tuesday so I will be home, but back to work wednesday :(
    My husband and I and our two daughters 8 & 11 live in a home in the capital city of a state in the central part of the United States. We have a Junior A hockey team that plays against opponents from surrounding states. The players range in age from 16 to 21 years old. Most teams have tryouts during the summer months then, the players selected come to our city and live with a housing family August - May. Here is the web site for the USHL teams ... . The name of our team is the Des Moines Buccaneers.
    If the young men have not completed high school they move in around the middle of August. If they have completed highschool, then they fly in closer to the end of August. In 1999-2000 we had an interview with the coach and the housing director and decided to house a player. They like to place players in homes with families since they will be away from their own families for so long. Each family must have an extra bedroom for the player so they will have privacy when they want it. People in our town are crazy about hockey, so many volunteer to house a player. My husband and I told the coach we thought it would be nice to have a player from another country so we could help him learn about the United States and we could learn about his country.
    In late August, we learned that big defenseman from Tovarniky, Slovakia would be living with us and playing hockey here. We were very excited, but nervous. We wanted to make sure he felt comfortable and at home. We learned that he spoke no English, so we went to the bookstore and bought a slovak/english dictionary. Then we hung notes all over the house with the english and slovak words so he would start to learn things. This was sometimes funny because the translation would not always be correct. The coach and another slovak player picked him up at the airport. Then he finally moved into our home. He had a slovak-english dictionary too which had many more words which I would recommend that any player coming to the U.S. bring.
    At first we used the dictionaries alot. In the morning, at each meal when we sat down to eat, and at night during TV. It took a little more time and patience on his part and ours, but it was fun. He was really a quick learner too. After awhile we stopped using dictionaries except when there was an unusual word that we hadn't used before. Then he met some people who had immigrated her from Slovakia and started taking some English classes. These helped with the written and spoken English too-after all, if his goal is to live here in the U.S. and play hockey, it is best that he learn some of the language so he can get around. He still used his Slovak alot because we had a computor so he could check up on his old team mates in Bratislava or e-mail his girlfriend and family. There were also a few other Slovak players playing in the USHL so he could e-mail them or talk to them after the games.
    When he lived with us he had practice during the day and would have activities with the other players and went to games, but generally ate with our family and celebrated holidays (we even tried cabbage soup!). Miro came from a very good family and was a wonderful person to live in our home. We also knew that his strength and skills as a hockey player were getting better and that he probably would not be back to play for our team again. So it was very difficult for all of us to say goodbye when he went home, but we knew he missed his family and friends too. Our family will NEVER be the same! Not a day goes by when we don't think of him. Now, we like to be his home and family away from home. We traveled 14 hours to see him at the Nashville training camp this summer and have plans to fly to Canada to see him play in the QJMHL.
    I think the year he spent in the Junior A league was good for him to get used to playing hockey with American players and get used to the language. Some players will go on and play for other teams (like defensman Peter Smrek from Martin who was drafted by St Louis and now plays in AHL) or if their English and grades are good and they want, they can get a college scholarship (like Left winger Peter Sejna from Liptovsky Mikulas). Hopefully for other lucky families and for hockey there are other players like Miroslav who have a dream and want to come to America to play hockey!

The new Slovakian season has just started…

Author: © Matko  Author information
Date: 09-10-00
Language correction: Emma

A new look season started in Slovakia on September 29th. The main change is that the number of points each team gets for a win has increased to three. If the game is tied, overtime will be played with the winning side getting two points and the losing side getting one. During overtime each team will only be allowed four players. There will be eight teams in the competition, but all of them will get into the playoffs and no-one will be relegated, this is because another two new teams will be added to the league next year.
Let's have a brief look at the changes to the teams...

The most departures in the league were from Slovan Bratislava where fourteen players left the team including Visnovsky (LA Kings), Podhradsky (Minnesota), Biegl (Havirov), Kapus (Trinec), Lipiansky (Vsetin) and three Russian players; Gribko, Iljin and Pankov. Replacements included Rybar and Hurtaj (who play in the national team) and some younger players who returned from North America like Melichrek and Hudec. The last two players to join the squad were Russian defencemen, Dimitrij Rodin and Latvian defenceman Oleks Sorokins. Slovan have now closed down their Trnavan farm team and are about to set up a new one in another town. Slovan’s new team logo is an eagle.
    Runners-up HKM Zvolen seem much better than last year. Although shooter Plavucha left to go to Swiss team Lugano, Zvolen have acquired some very good players including Cierny from Nurnberg. They’ve had no budget problems (as some other teams have) and are on track to depose Slovan as the kings of Slovakian hockey.
    The third candidate for the league title could be Poprad, an ambitious team with pretty much the same squad as last season. Unfortunately they have financial problems and rumours have been circulating that players didn't receive their wages for three months. The future of the team is therefore uncertain.
    In Trencin, where the coach is Julius Supler, they have a young team with potential, but one which seems weaker than last year. Some of the departing players (Gaborik to Minnesota and Rusznyak to Newcastle) have been replaced by young players from the junior team. However, Supler claims that he can develop a good team out of younger players.
    Liptovsky Mikulas seem stronger. They’ve acquired some players from the Slovakian Extraleague and their squad is more balanced. They could be the surprise of the season. Last year they played quite an unbalanced game (winning against Slovan but losing against the bottom team in the league), but it seems that this period might be over.
    There’s a big question mark over Skalica. Goalie Rybar went to Slovan so everything depends on the young goalie Lipovksy, who had many offers but decided to stay in Skalica. As a result Skalica are something of an unknown quantity.
    The situation in Kosice has been stabilized and in a pre-season tournament in Helsinki the team got to the final, losing to AIK Stockholm. As in Skalica, the key players in Kosice will be the goalies. At least it seems that the problems of last season (when many good players left due to finance problems) are over, and the team should be strong enough to maintain a position in the middle of the table. Before the season started the return of veteran Igor Liba was announced, but a deal wasn’t finalized so Liba will be finishing his career with First Division club Presov.
    A new team from Martin (replacing the team from Spiska Nova Ves) are looking ambitious, but the question is, how well will players who are used to the First Division do at the highest level of Slovakian hockey?

Matej Mutis

WC'2000: The first Revolution was "Velvet" -
The second was "Pucks of Steel"

(How Slovaks Celebrate their Silver Medalists)

(04-08-00 xRadis) Slovak hockey became a new member of the World Six - so now we have to talk about the "World Seven". Slovakian players showed the world that they are as good as the players of other nations, the names like Stastny, Bondra, Stumpel, Palffy or Demitra earned some reputation in North America. But Slovak national team was still waiting for good success. They debuted in Pool A in 1996, by the way in year when the Czech gold epoch started. The Slovaks finished at 10th place. Following years were not good too: 9th in 1997, 7th in 1998 and 5th-8th in 1999. The expectancy came off this year.
You can read how Slovaks celebrated their historical day.

Author: © Matko  Author information
Date: 04-08-00
Language correction: FlyBear
Other languages: German (by Tina), Slovak, French (by Jack Barron).

Sunday was Slovakia Day. The reason? The Slovak national hockey team. Slovakia's capital city, Bratislava, was especially lively on this day; sort of like an Italian city, where the streets bustle as much at night as they do during the day. The hockey mania actually begun on Friday, when the Slovakian team advanced from the semifinals to the gold medal game. Virtually every television set and radio in the country was tuned into the final game, while in Bratislava's main square, a throng of people gathered in front of a giant TV screen.

The final game between Slovakia and the Czech Republic was originally scheduled for Sunday, 4:00 pm (16:00). The big screen in Bratislava (about 8x6 meters; roughly 25 ft x 20 ft) was switched on at 3:50. Thousands of Slovaks celebrated as our stars hit the ice for the opening face-off. Fans from all over Slovakia assembled to watch the game on the big screen in Bratislava. They came from each corner of Slovakia. There were folks from Spisska Nova Ves (about 500km (300 miles) from Bratislava), Poprad (350 km), Trencin (120 km) and many other towns where dedicated hockey fans live. During the final game, there were also two popular Slovak celebrities on the main square; Jozef Procko, from TV Markiza, and Mino from Fun Radio. Jozef came decked out in typical Slovak colors: blue shirt, white cap and red shorts.
    The atmosphere in the crowd was great. Early in the match, Slovakia applied intense pressure in the Czech Republic zone. All of the Slovak fans were certain that we would soon grab the lead. Unfortunately, the Czechs scored first shortly past the 6 minute mark, as a Michal Sykora shot beat goalie Jan Lasak. The Czech team went on to score twice more in the first period; going into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead.
    The crowd remained enthusiastic. We continued singing our favorite songs, especially the Slovak national anthem. When Slovakia's Martin Strbak cut the Czech lead to 3-1, the Slovak fans shouted and celebrated with joyful cries of "Gooooooaaaaaal" and "One more please" ... Although the score held at 3-1 for the rest of the second period, we still believed that our team could come back to win and take the gold.
    Early in the third period, though, the Czechs scored their 4th goal of the game. As time began to slip away, Jozef Procko said that only God can help our team. Suddenly, the Slovaks scored a pair of quick goals. With 2:22 remaining, the Czech lead was down to a single goal at 4-3. Moments later, Michal Handzus (one of three Slovak stars on the St.Louis Blues) had a glorious chance to tie the game, but he missed the net. As often happens in hockey, a missed chance at one end leads to a counterattack. The Czechs came back the other way and Robert Reichel scored to put the game away. The Czechs were the gold medalists.
    We were still very proud of "men of silver." Despite the loss, hordes of Slovak fans waited for the team upon their return from St. Petersburg. Their arrival was scheduled for Monday at 1am (only 4 hours after the final whistle). We waited and waited, singing songs all the while. And then they came! It was now 2 am. About 30,000 fans were still there, saluting our heroes. It was an incredible scene. The players could not believe that so many people were there. Two interviewers spoke to each of the players, as each said a few words to the fans. Finally, the fans and players sang the Slovak national anthem together. It was a great moment in Slovak ice hockey history.
    At 6am, I came home, dressed in my favorite shirt, grabbed my book bag, and went to school - without sleep or breakfast. It was worth it. To each and every one of our hockey players, I'd like to say, "Guys, you were great! To the Slovak fans, you are world champions!"

Matej Mutis

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