MY LIFE, CHAPTER 1: Soft foam ball
I used to think that if I ever started writing a book about my career, it would be at a time when I took of my gloves for good and knew for sure that I’d never guard the goal again. But my career doesn’t seem to be nearing its end and I feel tempted. Do you want to know what it was like before? Let’s try. So, how I started with a hockey stick.
I’ve always hated to waste time.
I know guys, many of them my teammates, who need a nap after lunch to regain their strength. Not me. It would only slow me down.
I used to bring a little note to kindergarten saying my parents would pick me up after lunch. I couldn’t just quietly put on my PJs and go for an afternoon nap. Or just idle around, doing nothing.
Every day, I would hurry back home, to our bedroom, where I could play. A big part of my childhood paradise was hidden in that room. A three-bedroom flat in an ordinary block of flats in the Pilsen neighbourhood of Lochotín. A typical housing estate on the outskirts of the town.
The moment I came back from school I threw my bag into a corner and went looking for my plastic hockey stick and a ball – made from soft foam so that the walls didn’t suffer any damage. I wasn’t the type who collects toy cars or stamps, I didn’t play any musical instruments: the only thing I was interested in was sport. Street hockey and football throughout the year, ice hockey in the winter.
It might sound paradoxical but ice hockey was my greatest love then. All it took was a little snow, which we trampled to the ground, and immediately we started chasing the puck. Or even better, when the caretaker took his hose, sprinkled the little open space in front of our building with water and as if by magic, we had wonderful ice in the morning. The water had nowhere to go; there was a five-centimetre kerb around the place.
I took every match terribly seriously. I was angry when some of my teammates started goofing around or when someone spoiled the game on purpose.
Nowadays, they can’t get more than five or six kids from the neighbourhood to play in Lochotín. There used to be so many of us that we had to make subs or divide ourselves into several teams. Times are changing. When we were kids, there were no computers, satellite TV, tablets, mobile phones, PlayStation… And I was never really into watching TV anyway, the only things I watched were sports coverage and sometimes the popular Czech series of bedtime stories called Večerníček.
I can hear the narrator even today: “Once upon a time, behind a fog so thick you could cut it with a knife, and maybe even further than that, there was a small pond…” This is the start of one of the stories, which I really liked. I loved the two clumsy handymen, Pat & Mat, and the stories about Max and Sally and their magical torn-off telephone receiver, and other animated stories and cartoons. But my most beloved story by far was the live action series about the folklore of Krkonoše, or the Giant Mountains. I used to love the main anti-hero’s hearty swearing, and always rooted for his poor oppressed servants and the good giant Krakonoš who came to help them every time.
But TV or no TV, most kids from the neighbourhood used to run outside right after they came from school. And I joined them as soon as I was done with my football training. One of us would cover his eyes, shuffle all the hockey sticks behind his back, throw them to the left and to the right and epic hockey battles could begin.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 2
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