The legend of Ladislav
by Andy Potts|22 MAY 2019
Retiring Slovak player Ladislav Nagy is lifted on the shoulders of teammates Andrej Sekera and Michal Cajkovsky.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
122 games. 36 goals. Two World Championship medals. Those are the bare stats behind Ladislav Nagy’s career with Slovakia. The forward, who played his last game before retirement in Monday’s 2-1 shootout victory over Denmark had done almost everything.

The one thing missing? A game-winning goal for his national team in his hometown of Kosice.

But, right before the final curtain, the chance came. A tight game had finished 1-1. Nagy, captain for the day, received a terrific reception before, during and after the 65 minutes of action. Now it was the shootout. Two attempts each, two misses. Up stepped Nagy to take Slovakia’s third shot … and score! At the other end, Denmark failed to beat David Godla. Michal Kristof scored a second, Slovakia took the win – and Nagy was credited with the winner.

It crowned an emotional evening for one of the greats of Slovak hockey. Nagy, the last member of the golden roster of 2002 still playing, has a real connection with the Kosice crowd. He grew up near here, his first hockey experience came with HC Kosice and his final three seasons were spent with his boyhood club. In between, there were eight World Championship campaigns, eight seasons in the NHL, several years in the KHL and a belated Olympic debut in PyeongChang last year.

The emotions spilled over when his family – wife Petra and children Tomas and Petka – joined him on the ice. “I kept it all in until the kids came out,” he said. “I didn’t think it would really sink in until the next day because after the game I was with the guys.”

And he paid tribute to his wife: “Petra created a home for me where everything was perfect. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have lasted three seasons.”

Hoisted on the shoulders to the cheers of a capacity crowd in the Steel Arena was a moment to remember. “It was really beautiful, I enjoyed it,” Nagy added. “But not just the finale, all the games in this tournament were special for me.”
Ladislav Nagy honoured
Some clips from the postgame ceremony to celebrate the career of Ladislav Nagy.
SVK 22 MAY 2019
Slovakia’s assistant coach at this tournament, Michal Handzus, suggested that Nagy was fit enough to continue playing. “He’s a great player,” Handzus said. “He’s strong on the puck with an excellent shot and superb vision.

“He could play for years to come but he’s decided to leave at the top.”

The man himself, though, insists there will be no second thoughts: “I’m healthy enough to continue, I don’t think there would be a problem. But I think I’ve done enough. Everything is starting to hurt.”

Nagy’s team-mates also paid tribute to his achievements in a long career. The current Slovak roster is a youthful one, and for many it was a thrill to play alongside a player they had grown up admiring.

“I've grown up watching his clips, when he played for the national team, especially 2002,” said forward Robert Lantosi. “He's my idol from when I was growing up. It's too bad he's leaving, but if he feels it's time then it's time. It's been my pleasure to play with him and I wish him good luck.”

Linemate Michal Kristof added: “He's a great guy. I played with him last year and this year on the same line. I love to play with him, but not just because of his hockey – he's a great guy off the ice as well. I'm so glad that I could play with him, and I hope he enjoys his retirement.”

And Martin Fehervary, one of the young players hoping to lead the next generation of Slovak stars, talked about one of his personal heroes.

“He’s got a huge career, he played many games in the NHL then a lot of years in the KHL,” the 19-year-old defenceman said. “And he did so much on the national team. He’s really one of the idols of Slovak hockey. He’s a really great player and it was a thrill to get a chance to play with him.

“I hope that he liked that send-off. It was really fun to play on a day like this and I hope he enjoyed it.”