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Michalek living his hockey dream

Every game is a thrill for Sens forward with eyes on Olympics

Wednesday, 11.25.2009 / 10:49 AM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  - OttawaSenators.com
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Michalek living his hockey dream
Senators forward Milan Michalek is considered a strong candidate to make the Czech Republic's team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images).
Like many of his countrymen, Milan Michalek won’t soon forget the greatest moment in the Czech Republic’s proud hockey history.

Michalek, who was just 13 years old at the time, smiles broadly at the memory of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, when an underdog Czech team rode the sensational goaltending of Dominik Hasek to an improbable gold medal which was sealed with a 1-0 victory over old rival Russia.

“I think everybody still remembers that,” said Michalek, who shares the Ottawa Senators' goal-scoring lead (10) with Mike Fisher heading into their game tonight against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark (7 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200). “Nobody in the Czech (Republic) was working and nobody was going to school. Everybody was watching that game.

"It was great. I think it was great for a lot of young players because they could see what you could do (in hockey). They were my heroes and they were everybody’s heroes. It was unbelievable.”

It was also further inspiration for a still-burgeoning hockey career that began when a six-year-old Michalek decided to follow his brother, Zbynek, into the game while both were growing up in Jindrichuv Hradec, a town of 22,700 in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic.

“My brother already played hockey and I wanted to do the same, like him,” said Michalek of Zbynek, now a defenceman with the Phoenix Coyotes. “I went to a few practices with him and I really liked it, so I stuck with it.”

While the National Hockey League didn’t get regular television coverage in their homeland back then, the Michaleks knew all about Jaromir Jagr, the league’s biggest Czech-born star. Together, they dreamed of a future playing in the game’s best league.

“It was my dream always,” said Michalek, who speaks regularly with his brother after their NHL games. “For me and my brother, it was our dream, to get to the NHL and play in this league. It was a dream come true (when the San Jose Sharks made him the sixth overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft) and I was so excited. I’m still excited to play every game.”

"Nobody in the Czech (Republic) was working and nobody was going to school. Everybody was watching that game. It was great. I think it was great for a lot of young players because they could see what you could do (in hockey). They were my heroes and they were everybody’s heroes. It was unbelievable." - Milan Michalek
For the previous four seasons, that often meant walking to the HP Pavilion (a.k.a. the Shark Tank) on hot California days, not exactly your typical hockey setting. But now that he’s in Ottawa, Michalek feels closer to his roots.

“It’s pretty similar,” Michalek said when asked to compare Ottawa and the land of his birth. “The weather and the nature is the pretty much like Czech, so I feel pretty good here.”

Michalek has represented the Czech Republic at both the world and world junior championships. But nothing would make him prouder than to don his country’s journey at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and to follow in the footsteps of those heroes of his youth. He is considered a strong candidate to make that team, which will be announced by the end of December.

“It would feel great,” Michalek said about having his own shot at Olympic glory. “But I can’t really think about that. I have to do my job here and play really well and if the (Czech) coach picks me, the coach picks me. But if I am there, I would be really happy.”


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ATLANTIC DIVISION
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
2 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
3 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
4 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
5 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
6 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
7 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
8 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Karlsson 54 11 48 9 59
B. Ryan 53 19 26 -2 45
M. Hoffman 50 23 18 5 41
M. Stone 52 16 25 -10 41
M. Zibanejad 53 11 22 -1 33
K. Turris 48 13 17 -11 30
J. Pageau 54 13 10 6 23
Z. Smith 53 11 5 7 16
C. Ceci 47 5 11 -1 16
C. Lazar 49 5 9 0 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Anderson 22 17 4 .914 2.86
A. Hammond 3 5 2 .900 3.10