The number of ticket requests Michal Rozsival has received from close friends, family members and even fringe acquaintances for the NHL Premiere games in Prague passed normal levels long ago.
The number is now bordering on insane.
"It might be close to 50 right now," the New York Rangers defenseman told NHL.com, "and that's including people I would like to get the tickets for. There are many others that I didn't promise anything to. It's a number I didn't expect."
Rozsival now knows he should have expected the interest. After all, it isn't often -- try never before -- that the National Hockey League brings its brand and two of its most talked about teams to Prague for a pair of regular-season games.
NEW YORK RANGERS
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(5TH eAst/9TH NHL)
|Change from 2006-07||-3|
(2ND eAst/6TH NHL)
(9TH eAst/13TH NHL)
While Prague gears up to host the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning for games Oct. 4 and 5 at the O2 Arena, Rozsival has been anticipating his return trip home.
He spent the offseason in Prague, but returned to New York this week to begin training camp. After playing a pair of exhibition games in Bern, Switzerland, Rozsival will head back home with the Rangers on Oct. 2.
"It is special because there are not many people in Europe that get the chance to play an NHL game in their country," Rozsival said. "It's special to me. I'm excited for hockey fans in the Czech Republic because they get a chance to see the NHL and they don't have to travel outside the country to do so."
Rozsival and Petr Prucha, who is from Chrudim, which is about 60 miles east of Prague, are the only Czechs on the Rangers' roster. When the NHL Premiere was announced in January, the Rangers had five Czech-born players, including Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Marek Malik.
Even though Jagr is now playing in Russia, Straka is playing at home in the Czech Extraliga and Malik is still an unrestricted free agent, Rozsival didn't get the sense this summer that fans in Prague had lost any interest in the NHL Premiere.
"I know lots of people wanted to come and see Jaromir play an NHL game, but they're going to be good games even without Jaromir," Rozsival said. "(Czech fans) realize there are good, quality players like (Vincent) Lecavalier, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, and they still want to come and see the games. They are real excited about it."
"I'm excited for hockey fans in the Czech Republic because they get a chance to see the NHL and they don't have to travel outside the country to do so."
-- Michal Rozsival
"Everybody keeps telling me that Prague is such a beautiful city, but living here I don't give it as much credit, I guess," Rozsival said. "If anybody is interested and needs some help to go see some places, I will definitely help them out. When we are on the bus from the airport, I will have that feeling, a sense of pride. It is a sense of pride."
Even while buoyed by a strong sense of pride, Rozsival is returning home for business purposes only, and he won't allow himself to forget that.
He's not going to stay in his own home in the city, but instead with the Rangers in the team hotel. He'll do all team activities so to treat the trip like it's a regular road trip, even it is about as far removed from a regular road trip as the Rangers will ever have.
"It's a business trip," Rozsival said. "We're not coming over to walk around the city, to see some old buildings and nice squares. It's business. It's the start of a new season and we want to start the season off on the right foot. It's a new team and we have to bond as a team. We want to win these two games."
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