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NHL stickwork gets high marks from Czechs

So much is said and written about how much more skilled the European game is compared with the NHL. But Jiri Kalous, an assistant coach with HC Slavia, the Czech elite league team in Prague, disagrees, especially when it comes to the stickwork between players. "Here, it is not good playing in hockey," he said. "There are many fouls in our competition. In the NHL, if somebody plays with the stick, immediately out. You have cleaned (the game) up. It is hard but clean. It is very good."

Why are there so many stick infractions in the Czech Republic? Kalous blames the larger European ice surface. "It's very hard to catch him and defend him," Kalous said of players. "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 a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for a brawl. Kalous said players used to be suspended up to three games for fighting, but the rule recently changed.

"So you're not able to square with someone in a fighting way, so you use your stick," Prospal said.

No room for goody-two-shoes

The Senators took some heat after last season's playoff flameout for being too much the party animals. Asked if the topic came up with defenseman Andrej Meszaros, whose rights Tampa Bay got from Ottawa, coach Barry Melrose said no.

Besides, Melrose said, "There's not a lot of televangelism in hockey."

"Mez is a competitor and plays hard on the ice," Melrose added. "I'd much rather have a guy like that who has a couple of beers than a guy who doesn't compete, who's home at 5 o'clock every night watching the Brady Bunch. Same thing with guys who live in the weight room; give me a fat guy who hits anything that moves."

Cap arithmetic

The Lightning's salary cap number is $54.8-million. Salaries (in millions):

Player Cap hit

Vinny Lecavalier $6.875M

Marty St. Louis $5.25M

Ryan Malone $4.5M

Andrej Meszaros $4M

Steven Stamkos $3.725M*

Vinny Prospal $3.5M

Matt Carle $3.438M

Radim Vrbata $3M

Olaf Kolzig $2.5M*

Gary Roberts $2.07M*

Jeff Halpern $2M

Jussi Jokinen $1.812M

Mark Recchi $1.5M*

Chris Gratton $1.25M

Marc Denis $1M**

Evgeny Artyukhin $950,000

Shane O'Brien $950,000

Mike Smith $950,000

Paul Ranger $933,000

Vladimir Mihalik $850,000

Ryan Craig $787,000

Mike Lundin $688,000

Jason Ward $675,000

Adam Hall $600,000

David Koci $525,000

Jamie Heward$475,000

* Includes bonuses. ** Buyout.

No trail of crumbs

Good thing the path from the locker room to the bench is so short. Coach Barry Melrose and goaltenders coach Cap Raeder, right, proved in Prague they are directionally challenged.

The pair took a walk through the historic and beautiful city from the team hotel to the Charles Bridge, found a cigar shop and bought some Cubans. But something went terribly wrong after that; wrong turn after wrong turn got the pair hopelessly lost.

"People said, 'Why didn't you just jump in a cab?' " Melrose said. "Well, it became a matter of pride. You've got two guys of reasonable intelligence. Surely, we can find a hotel."

They did, two hours later, but only after buying a map.

NHL stickwork gets high marks from Czechs 10/04/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 10:46am]
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