PARDUBICE – The Czech national inline hockey team got some good news earlier in the week when it was announced that NHLer and international ice hockey star Ales Hemsky would be joining the team for the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.
Hemsky, a Pardubice native, has played in two Winter Olympic Games, most recently Sochi 2014, along with three IIHF World Championships and 672 NHL games, recording 494 points. His father, Petr Hemsky, is the coach of the inline national team.
IIHF.com caught up with Hemsky ahead of his team’s big quarter-final matchup against Canada.
Hello Ales, when did you decide you were going come to Pardubice for this tournament?
I knew the tournament would be here for a little while and decided to play about three days ago. I like the sport, I played from when I was 12-13 years old and I always had a good time. I’m here for about a month and came in just before the game so figured why not?
I’ve played the World Championship a couple of times before, I do it because it’s great hockey practice and good training for the summer, it’s a plus that it’s here in Pardubice so I don’t have to travel.
Were you concerned at all about getting injured, given that your aren’t under contract with an NHL team at the moment?
Yeah that’s why I was debating at first if I should come or not, but for me it’s like a workout for the summer, if I had to be careful about injuries all the time I wouldn’t do anything, I’d be sitting at home watching TV and you can’t be scared like that. The sport is no contact, you do have to be careful of course but it is what it is.
Did you talk to your dad about playing?
He asked me to play and I told him I would think about it, because I didn’t play in the tournament for the last three years because of injuries and shoulder surgery.
It’s also a chance to play in your hometown, when was the last time you played in Pardubice?
It was during the NHL lockout two years ago I played here, it was nice to be back, not having to travel anywhere and to be comfortable. My parents still have a place here and I come back every summer.
Must be nice to come back after a game to some great home cooking.
Definitely (laughs), it’s great because I don’t often cook for myself during the season. Plus having all the friends and family around is great.
Playing inline is like you said a great way to stay in hockey shape. What kind of ice hockey fundamentals do you think Inline promotes the most?
It’s a different style of skating, but for staying in shape it’s great because it’s four-on-four and you’re constantly going up and down the ice. You don’t stop too much and you skate a lot while playing the puck, so puck handling is a plus. The puck is a little lighter and stands up more so you have to be very accurate with your passing too. But also it’s a nice change from regular summer training where you’re always running.
What got you into inline?
We started an inline team when I was around 12 years old and I got involved with the team right away, it was a time when inline was just getting started in the country and in the summer we played all the time and started a league. It’s getting bigger now, not as big in France where they have a professional league, but a big league where a lot of people join and play for fun.
Anything about this tournament in particular you enjoy?
It’s special because it’s at home, and yeah it may not be as stressful as an Olympics of World Championship, but still it’s a world championship tournament and anytime you go to one you go to win.
Martin Vozdecky is one player that has been impressive for eth Czechs at the Worlds this year.
He’s been playing for a long time, he’s a good inline hockey guy and the guys he plays with on the same line play the whole year in France so it helps a lot, he’s got a good shot too and every tournament he plays in he does well.
You have Team Canada in the quarter-finals, what do you need to do to win?
I haven’t seen them play yet, but they have a good team and have a few guys that play all year so it’ll be a tough game. A lot of the teams here paly differently so you have to adjust your game as you go along.
Are you expecting a big crowd at the game?
Oh yeah I think so, last time we had the tournament here it was packed, Pardubice is not a big city but the people here love their sports and especially hockey, no matter if it’s on ice or inline.