Rybar seizes the moment
by Juraj Hudak|31 MAR 2022
Slovak player rush to celebrate with Patrik Rybar after winning Olympic bronze. 
Standing as a rock between the pipes or calm and steady in the net. These were the words that many Slovak commentators used to describe Patrik Rybar during the Olympic ice hockey tournament in Beijing.

“Sometimes, he can get furious during the games. However, his best performance come up when he is calm,” said his father and former Slovak goalie Pavol Rybar.

Dad knows what he is talking about. Looking back to Beijing, there is no doubt that Slovakia’s medal would not have been possible without the contributions of his son.

But Rybar’s Olympic story didn’t start right away, it took exactly four periods. In the first game, which Slovakia lost to Finland 6-2, he was still the backup goalie. Before the next game played against Sweden, Slovakia’s coaches again went with Matej Tomek in net.

The Slovaks had a rough start to the game. After first 20 minutes of the game they were losing 3-0 and head coach Craig Ramsay decided to put Rybar in. Despite Slovakia losing 4-1, Rybar didn´t allow any pucks in the net, the last goal coming on an empty net. That was the beginning of Rybar´s story.

“Yeah, it reminded me early days of my career. I was playing in Hradec Kralove, where they just took me up from the minor league, gave me a chance and since that time, I didn´t allow anyone to be by the net about twelve games in a row,” said Rybar.

Rybar held onto the starting job in Beijing and the rest is history, as the Slovaks dominated Sweden in their playoff rematch 4-0 to win a historic bronze medal.
Rybar posted a 0.86 GAA and two shutouts in six games at the Olympics. 
One month later, he is still feeling the same excitement as he had right after the big achievement in China.

“Yeah, the feeling is still the same. I still can´t believe, we made it. When I look back today, it´s unbelievable, having the Olympic medal,” acknowledges Rybar.

Beijing saw Patryk Rybar in his best shape. On the ice he acted like old and experienced goalie, something he credits his parents, in particular his father Pavol who also represented Slovakia at the Winter Olympics, both in 1998 and 2002.

“I knew I had to be a backbone of our defense. If you tend to show, there is everything OK in the net, guys can make more plays in offense,” said Patrik Rybar.

When considering his biggest Olympic moment, Rybar points to the quarter-final game against USA, which Slovakia won 3-2 in a shootout.
“Because, if we would not win over U.S. in that game, we would not be able to fight for the medal and we would be knocked out of the tournament,” Rybar said.
The game was very tight and saw the Slovaks down by one goal two minutes before the end. Coach Craig Ramsay decided to pull Rybar and it worked, with Marek Hrivik scoring on a backhand rebound.

After a goalless 10 minutes during 3-on-3 overtime, it was time for the shootout. This was the shining moment for Patrik Rybar on the tournament. He stoned all five U.S. shooters and helped Slovakia to extend its Olympic dream to the semi-final.

Patrik Rybar had a secret advantage in that game – his father. Pavol Rybar won silver at the 2000 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in St. Petersburg and was the part of the bronze medal team in the 2003 World Championship in Helsinki. He now works as a video coach in HC Slovan Bratislava where he played most of his career.

So while the coaching staff supported him in Beijing, Patrik also got an extra data by his video coach dad.

“We communicate a lot. If I need something, I ask him for help or I ask him to have a look at certain game or player. After that he sends me some videos, so I can see how and where the most skilled players probably shoot, which is beneficial for me during the game,” admitted Rybar.

“I like to prepare this way. I am focusing on details, because today’s hockey is all about little things and I want to prepare well for every game.”
Rybar with his father Pavol (on left).
Rybar also got similar support during the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia and a year before in Denmark. In those tournaments Slovakia finished far from the medal games, but in Beijing, the self-belief was evident within the team according to Rybar.

“Even it didn’t look like from the beginning, we had well-composed team,” said Rybar. “Then we won against Latvia then swept up Germany 4-0 and strength of our team started to grow up. We started to believe in ourselves more and everyone supported each other. Guys showed it on the ice, while they blocked many shots too and each of us took its role in the team seriously. That brought us to the success.”

Another important reason for the team’s success and self-belief was right on the bench – Coach Craig Ramsay. All players kept saying that native Canadian showed them that they can be better and beat everyone. And they gave his belief back on the ice.

After the bronze medal game, he admitted that in his entire coaching career he had not experienced a better third period than it was played by Slovaks in that 3rd place game of the tournament.

After that Slovaks started to flee on the ice and throwing up their equipment to the air. Since that moment, only joy and clear celebration were seen on the ice.

“It was amazing. After the ceremony we went to village where we sat together in the room. While we were so tired, we didn´t celebrate too much. Also, everyone knew, they had to go back to the clubs in two days,” Patrik Rybar said.

One thing he will never forget is the arrival back to home and the ride on the double-decker bus which took parade through the streets of Bratislava.

“I have never seen something like that in my life and I hope I will experience that in the future again. I will never forget those moments. It was unbelievable, there was so many people attending the ceremony in the square. Just marvelous,” said Rybar.

His father went through the similar celebrations while he brought in 2000 first-ever medal for Slovakia.

“This time I was just waiting behind the scenes. I just took some of his things and then we spent evening together. And that was it,” said Pavol Rybar.

Patrick’s father was asked whether he wasn´t feeling a bit jealous about his son and his Olympic achievement.

“Not at all,” he smiled and continued. “I am glad he is better and he has beaten me in certain things already. Probably every father prefers his son´s success over to his own.”