Brno, May 21 (BD) — Now that Brno is opening up to the point that people can actually congregate in the outdoor areas of bars and restaurants to drink beer, this afternoon will surely have a festive atmosphere for a normal part of Czech springtime life: ice hockey.
The Czech Republic — which, of course, is known for both beer and hockey — will open the Hockey World Championships at 3:15 p.m. today with a big game against Russia, the country’s historic and symbolic rival. The game is in Latvia but it will be shown on Czech TV.
Many bars and restaurants will offer outdoor viewing to adhere to coronavirus restrictions against being indoors. Expect people to leave work early to get prime spots on the benches.
The Czech hockey team will play in Group A, which includes Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus and Great Britain. Group B includes perennial top teams like Canada and the United States.
All of the Czech games will be broadcast on Czech TV.
The Czechs play Switzerland on Saturday at 7:15 p.m., which will surely again attract crowds for communal beer-drinking and hockey-watching. Belarus is on tap for Monday at 7:15 p.m.
The World Championships continue to the title game on June 6. (Then, after a short pause, the Czech Republic will start play in another international sports tournament, EUFA Euro Cup, which was postponed last year by the coronavirus. The Czech Republic plays Scotland on June 14, Croatia on June 18 and England on June 22.)
The days of world superstar hockey players, like Jaromir Jagr, are gone and contemporary stars, like Jakub Voracek, David Krejci or David Pastrnak, are involved in the NHL and will not play for their country. In fact, the average age for the national team is 26.36. Thirteen of the 28 players have never played in a World Championship and only two have played more than two. Even the head coach, Filip Pesan, is only 43 years old.
It will be fun to see which young players take the leading roles and establishes themselves as the next stars.
This first game against Russia will bring extra meaning. It is not so long ago that the Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Warsaw Pact and Soviet political influence was a powerful factor in local politics for decades. Every match-up between the countries stirs local passion.
Given the long history of Czech hockey, it is likely that the country will reach the quarterfinals in order to continue its streak of never finishing worse than seventh.