It's different, and dirtier, in the Czech Republic
Spent a good chunk of the day at the O2 Arena today in Prague. The Lightning had an hour-long video session to address the lack of aggression the team has shown the past two games when it comes to puck battles. The Lightning also skated for 90 minutes, a bit longer than usual, but with a lot of traveling on Sunday (three countries in one day as it goes to Berlin to play a game and then to Slovakia), the morning skate on Sunday will be optional.
Anyway, in that time had an interesting conversation with Jiri Kalous, an assistant coach with the HC Slavia Praha hockey team based in Prague. We got through the usual stuff about how big hockey is in the Czech Republic, how Jaromir Jagr, before he bolted for Russia, was the country's favorite NHL player; now, Kalous said, it is more of a collective pride in the natives who can play in the world's best league.
But when it got to the game itself, I was surprised Kalous said the NHL game is much less dirty.
"Here it's not good playing in hockey," Kalous said. "There are many fouls in our competition. In the NHL, if somebody plays with the stick, immediately out. (He meant stick fouls, of course.) You have cleaned it up. It is hard but clean. it is very good."
Why is there so many stick fouls in Czech. Kalous said it is the larger ice surface.
"It's very hard to catch him and defend him," Kalous said. "So from there, they use their sticks."
Czech native Vinny Prospal said a lack of fighting also contributes. Fights in the Czech Republic earn a two-minute penalty for a minor dustup and five-minute penalty for a brawl and a game misconduct. Kalous said it used to be players were suspended up to three games for fighting but that rule recently changed. "So you're not able to square with someone in a fighting way, so you you use your sticks," Prospal said.
One other thing that is different here, the ice surface is covered, and I mean covered, with 50 ads. I counted. There literally is more color than whote ice. There also are ads on the glass. Big clear letters that are see-through, but they are there, nonetheless.
For the Lightning's game, however, the ice sheet will be painted over. The league has brought in Dan Craig to supervise. Craig is now an NHL employee but was the guru of ice in Edmonton, which is widely believed to have the best NHL ice.