Woman power moves Slovakia forward
by Juraj Hudak|02 JUN 2020
Sandra Demitrova represents Slovakia on Xbox One at the IIHF Esports Fan Championship.
Slovakia reached the quarter-finals of the IIHF Esports Fan Championship by winning the closest of all games so far against Latvia. The deciding victory came from Sandra “Lady Brunette” Demitrova. The 26-year-old player won both of her games on Xbox One – 7-3 and 2-1 – to help Slovakia reach the next round.

Demitrova wears the jersey and the female version of the name of the late Slovak legend Pavol Demitra.

“Yes, we are distant family. We met once, but we didn’t know each other closely,” said Demitorva, who has been playing video games since she was a little girl.

Now she can show up her skills as the only woman who became national champion in the IIHF Esports Fan Championship to make the global tournament. IIHF.com had a chat with her before the quarter-final game against Canada on Wednesday.

Thanks to your deciding victory Slovakia reached the quarter-finals. Was the first round hard for you?
Yes, it was really tough. Since it was the first round, I felt a little nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect. Then I was going to the final game, where I had to win, which added more pressure on me. Finally, all turned out as it should, so I am satisfied.

That deciding game was close and you won 2-1 thanks to two power-play goals. Are power plays as decisive in the video game as they are on the ice?
It is very hard to kill penalties in the video game. As we could see, I scored two goals on the power play, so I think it’s really the same advantage as in real hockey.

How do you feel representing Slovakia in this special IIHF Esports Fan Championship?
Playing for the Slovak Republic is a big honour for me. Even when I went through the first round, it was unbelievable for me. But when I won our national tournament back in 2018 it was amazing too. I enjoyed every tournament I won. But this one is little bit different for me. It’s kind of special because I represent Slovakia. It means a lot to me.

What did the selection for the IIHF Esports Fan Championship look like for you in Slovakia?
It went through the qualification rounds. The Xbox and PS4 players had separate events. There were about 150 people who were drawn into the games both for Xbox and PS4. Only one loss was enough to drop out. Tt was played as knockout event, so those who lost were out. Although I had to play only five rounds, our final was very hard. I won 2-1 in overtime.

Did you practise before the tournament?
Of course, I did. I played for USA, because I am not used to play on the big ice surface. The game is made so realistic and you can feel the difference when you start playing with European teams on the bigger ice. All plays are suddenly a bit different.

Why didn’t you choose the Slovak team?
I’ve kept hearing this question all the time and I saw many people asked that during the live stream of our games too. The answer is simple. Because the teams are made diametrically different. Slovakia is one of the worst-rated teams in the game, so the IIHF made a rule that everyone could pick any team, which is fair for everyone. If all teams would be rated the same, we could play for Slovakia. Because we want to get as far as possible, we had to choose the strongest teams.

Is it there any other game preparation you could do apart from switching on the Xbox?
Not really. I haven’t had any special sort of training. I just needed to be in the right shape and play games. But I was using my talisman, my skate-shaped earrings. I wear them before every game I play. But it’s only for luck. I wore them during the last game too.

In the quarter-finals, you’ll be facing Canadian players. Are you going to change your tactics and is it necessary to do this kind of preparation before the video game?
Of course, we use that in the video games a lot. The strategy is essential. I have had the same for a long time. But when I see that they are not useful in a particular game, I am not afraid to change them even during the game. We will definitely talk about how to play against them. I will watch their last games on video. I already know that it will be incredibly difficult, because these players belong to the very best of the world.

Do you know them?
Yes, I do. They are famous, because they regularly participate in the NHL Gaming World Championship. These guys from Canada are well-known names, so I expect one hell of a competition.

You are the only woman in the global tournament of the IIHF Esports Fan Championship. Does it surprise your opponents?
Some of them know me, so they are not surprised that I am there for Slovakia. But some of them are shocked and they could underestimate me. But there is always various view on me as a female player.

Do you think the Canadians could slightly underrate you?
I am sure they do. Because I know them and I don’t think they have noticed me yet. We never played against each other so far. Or maybe really long time ago. So yes, I think they will take it lightly.

Are you discussing with your team member about the tactics?
Most of the time I am coach of my own. But before the game against the Canadians I will talk with him for sure. We can talk what we could change in our game, or what we could do different from our last games against Latvia. Maybe to give some advices to each other and so on.

For how long have you been playing video games?
Since my childhood. Especially I have played hockey when NHL 09 went out, so it has been eleven years since I have played hockey video games.

Is it possible to play games for living?
Somewhere for sure. Unfortunately, in Slovakia it’s impossible to live from playing the NHL video game yet. Esports are getting more and more popular. In other countries, people can make really nice money already. I think the financial evaluation of esports players will be even better in the future.

Do you want to be a professional esports player?
I don’t know yet. I am graduate in logopaedics and gaming is my hobby, which could bring me some benefits. But you can’t make a living from it, so speech therapy remains the priority. But if I could live form that, I would definitely like to be a professional gamer.

Are you a fan of the real IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship?
Yeah, for sure. I watch them every year and the NHL too. I’m a big fan. Besides Pavol Demitra, I like Marian Hossa and Tomas Tatar. From other countries I am a huge fan of Alexander Ovechkin.