Voracek brings NHL home
by Juraj Hudak|05 OCT 2019
Czech forward Jakub Voracek shakes hands with Sweden’s Elias Pettersson during the recent 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Bratislava.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Jakub Voracek has a smile on his face after beating Chicago with Philadelphia 4:3. The Czech player was in the middle of the attention during these three days in Prague where the NHL came for the season opener of these two teams after exhibition games in Berlin and Lausanne.

Despite the fact that Jakub Voracek didn’t make a single point, every time he touched the puck, the whole arena, well known to local fans for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in 2004 and 2015, started to cheer. These days in the capital of his native country were simply special for the Czech forward.

It must be great to be home in the beginning of the season. Did you visit your family?
Yeah. The night before the game I went for a dinner to my hometown in Kladno. My father cooked a pikeperch, which he caught in Sweden. But it’s always nice to see your family, especially in this part of the season.

You played against Lausanne HC. They’ve just opened a new arena where the Czech national team will play the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. How did you feel there?
We lost the game but the arena was so beautiful. I think this is the new trend in constructing arenas around Europe. The capacity is about 9,000 people, which is perfect for this part of the world. That arena is really nice.

The Czech Republic is going to host the IIHF World Junior Championship this year. Are you aware?
Yeah, but the season in NHL is so quick and you have to focus on your performance. If I will have time, I will check it, for sure. The tournament will be during Christmas. I will definitely have time for that so I will watch how our boys are doing.

Many people were watching you closely as the biggest star during the NHL’s Global Series in Prague. Even though you didn’t score a point, people were cheering your play. How does it feel?
Great. I didn’t score a point, but we won. I am happy for the way we played as a line to be honest. All of our lines played well, we created a lot of chances. It doesn’t matter how many points I get. I am already 30 and my goal is to win the Cup.

There was a lot of hype around this game. How did you manage to focus during all three periods?
After the pre-season, nobody expected us to play this well. I think we skated well, passed the puck over and created a lot of chances. Every line played responsibly. I made a couple of mistakes but that happens every time. We got two big points at the start of the season. Now we have to take some rest at home and be ready for another one.

Energy and enthusiasm during practice and full crowd in O2 Arena. How would you describe the NHL in Prague?
I think that it was an amazing experience. I said it in many interviews before. When we play against Chicago, they are playing to have fun. They have a lot of skilled players. That’s why people saw so many up and downs. But it was very enjoyable for the fans. I think we played good hockey in the first game of the season.

Carter Hart played two periods with the shape like last year. But the first period in Lausanne and against Chicago didn’t look good. Can he repeat the performance from last year?
I disagree. Nylander just placed it very well and our goalie just let it out. He is a very talented goalie. He works so hard. The sky is the limit for him, I would say.

There was a lot of emotions during the last three days in Prague. What did you take out of this experience? Does it exceed your expectations?
100 percent yes. It’s better when you win, but during these three days we had a good time. Guys enjoyed sight-seeing. It was a great teambuilding for us as well. Yesterday we showed what we are capable of. After the defeat in Lausanne nobody expected us to start like this. I am glad we did it. I am aware of what we have in the locker room.

Was this game any different compared to games in North America?
The game had pace. Nobody played from their defensive zone all the time. People saw a great performance and they reward us with an amazing atmosphere. Hopefully the NHL will come back here next year again.

How did you feel when the whole arena was cheering for you?
It was really nice for sure, but for me it was just another game. As soon as the puck was dropped, I forgot about everything and just focused on the game. Preparation for the game was the same, but I felt really nice when crowd was cheering, I wasn’t nervous at all.

All of your teammates said they wanted to win for you. How does it feel to know that?
I am very happy for that, because it was probably my last NHL game in Prague. I really enjoyed it. Guys just know how I speak about Prague and the Czech Republic. I always keep talking about us and our culture.