VLAŠIM, Czech Republic -- A year ago, defenseman Michal Rozsival was an unrestricted free agent considering his options after 11 seasons in the NHL. He chose to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks because he felt there was a very good chance he could become an NHL champion.
It turns out he was right. He celebrated his first Stanley Cup win with the Blackhawks in June and on Wednesday added to those memories when he brought the Cup to his home in the Czech Republic.
"It's great to see the Cup again," Rozsival told reporters in Vlašim, a small town located in the central region of the country.
The defenseman grew up in Vlašim and played junior hockey here and with the team in Dukla Jihlava. After being picked by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth round (No. 105) of the 1996 NHL Draft, he moved to Canada to play junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.
The 34-year-old has 64 goals and 272 points in 783 NHL games. During the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, he lost in the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. But this year with the Blachawks, his dream of winning the Cup came true.
"I am a veteran, so I am very glad I've reached this achievement. If I do not win the Cup again, I can still say, 'Well, I have it,'" said Rozsival, who signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks in July. "To win it this year does not mean my motivation for next season will be lower. You always want to win. Once you taste this sweet fruit, you start loving it and you want to get more."
The iconic trophy was brought to Rozsival's house in the suburbs of Prague after spending Tuesday with countryman Michael Frolik. After receiving the Cup, Rozsival first sat in the garden and enjoyed a quiet moment with the most famous trophy in sports.
"I've been thinking a lot about that achievement and I realized that it's a rarity," Rozsival said. "I've heard just about 1,200 players had won it in the past. That's not so much through the entire history [of hockey]."
In the early afternoon, he rented a boat on the Vltava river and took his family for a ride through the historical city center of Prague.
"We took some lovely pictures under the Charles Bridge and on the Wenceslas Square. Some tourists around us were surprised, but it was not that crowded," Rozsival said.
With the Cup visiting Vlašim for the first time, more than 3,000 people waited to participate in the official celebration. Rozsival brought the trophy to the community's new stadium and to the local rink where he learned to play hockey.
"I've spent a lot of time on that ice," he said. "Some things have changed here, but the old boards are still the same. It's a gorgeous feeling to bring the Cup to where I started playing as a kid."
Thursday, the trophy will move to Slovakia, where forward Michal Handzus will bring the Cup to his hometown of Banská Bystrica. From there, Marian Hossa will welcome the Stanley Cup on Friday in the town of Trencin, which will host the Cup for the third time in four years. Hossa and Tomas Kopecky won the Cup in 2010 with Chicago and Zdeno Chara hoisted it the following year with the Boston Bruins. Hossa and Chara are neighbors.
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