Credit: Petr Pavel, via Facebook

President Pavel Welcomes Czech World Hockey Champions at Prague Castle

President Petr Pavel yesterday welcomed the Czech hockey players who won gold medals at the World Championships on Sunday to Prague Castle, and thanked them for the fighting spirit they showed at the tournament.

Pavel received a gold medal from Czech Hockey President Alois Hadamczik, a signed Czech team jersey from captain Roman Cervenka, and a hockey stick from NHL star David Pastrnak. The hockey players came with their medals and the cup.

Hadamczik thanked Pavel for his support in the stands and the dressing room. “One of those medals, even though you weren’t on the ice, belongs to you,” he told the president. “I promise not to wear it,” Pavel said. “I don’t deserve that, you deserve that. But I’ll put it where all the visitors to the Castle can see it, so they’ll notice you were here too.”

President Pavel visited the Czech team in the dressing room in Prague’s O2 Arena before its third group game against Switzerland. He came to the dressing room to congratulate the players after they won the finals last Sunday, beating Switzerland 2-0 to become world champions again after 14 years, and 39 years after they last managed to win the championship on home ice. 

The president said he would not play with the jersey, gloves or stick he received from the players. He said he could not play with Pastrnak’s right-handed stick anyway as he is left-handed.

Credit: Petr Pavel, via Facebook

“I am glad you accepted my invitation to the Castle, at least I can return the invitation to your dressing room,” Pavel told the players. “The very fact that you have come through the round of celebrations to today shows that you are certainly resilient individuals. Maybe the last few days have been harder than the championship itself.” 

“Although it may not have been your primary goal, you have managed to bring the nation back together,” the president said.

He told the players that they would become an inspiration for many Czech children. “You will be role models for many boys and girls who are starting hockey or any other sport,” he said.

The president said Czech former striker Vaclav Nedomansky had been one of his heroes when he had started playing hockey in Kladno. He noted that the now 80-year-old Nedomansky was sitting in the stands not far from him at the championship

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) welcomed the hockey players in the garden of the Kramar Villa in Prague and awarded them the Karel Kramar Memorial Medal.

The Czech team saw the reception by President Pavel as a great honour.

Credit: Petr Pavel, via Facebook

“It’s something we probably won’t forget that we were able to stand here and be congratulated by the president. You can see that he is a humble person, that he is a fan of hockey and sports in general,” forward Martin Necas said.

Czech goaltender Lukas Dostal told reporters it was a huge honour to meet the president in such a way. “I don’t hide the fact that I’m a big fan of the president,” he said.

Dostal, who was named the best goalie of the tournament and chosen for the All Star team, has already taken a break from celebrations. “I don’t drink much, so on Tuesday evening I went home. I needed to take a break from everything and sort myself out…. To win like this in the Czech Republic is unbelievable. We are already part of history,” he said.

Fans at his home, in Bedrichovice near Brno, dressed up a statue of Napoleon in his honour in a Czech jersey and goaltender gear. “I noticed it when I arrived in the evening. It’s very nice,” Dostal said.

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