You already know David Koci sports a tough-guy reputation around the NHL, but you probably had no idea the on-ice enforcer thinks a stroll through Prague's Old Town Square is "pretty" and one of his favorite Czech delicacies is steak tartar.
Koci, the towering 6-foot-6, 238-pound forward who signed with Tampa Bay over the summer, told NHL.com that and more about his home city of Prague, where the Lightning will open the regular season with games Oct. 4 and 5 against the New York Rangers.
If you're one of the lucky fans traveling to Prague for the 2008 NHL Premiere, you should read the Q&A that follows because Koci has some free advice for all the tourists out there, including me:
NHL.com -- I'm a tourist in Prague for the games and I want to taste some authentic Czech food. What places are you sending me to and what am I eating?
David Koci -- I would probably send you downtown to Old Town Square, where there are a bunch of restaurants and they serve Czech food. I usually don't like the Czech food too much because it's not really healthy. It's like dumplings and pork and sauerkraut. It's really good, though. The one thing I do like very much is steak tartar. It's just raw meat with egg inside and people mix it together and they eat it with fried Czech bread. Some people don't even want to try it because they're afraid, but it's kind of a Czech delicacy. People will get a beer with it and hang out. You can also go to the Vaclavske Namesti (Wenceslas Square) for typical Czech food for tourists.
NHL.com -- The games only last a few hours, so that leaves plenty of time for touring. What tourist attractions do you recommend?
DK -- Definitely check out the Prague Castle. I recommend it big time. It's the biggest castle in the world. And that's on a hill, so it's a great view of the entire city. It's a fun place to go. It's different. Inside the Prague Castle is a big cathedral, one of the biggest cathedrals in the world and that's pretty cool, too. The Czech president's office is also inside the Prague Castle. You can walk from the Prague Castle down to Charles Bridge. When you walk it, you walk into the Old Town, which is amazing. It's like from an old story. I go there every summer and I don't even believe how pretty it is. It's built around the castle and there is a big river there, the Vltava River. You can walk across the Charles Bridge into New Town, which isn't really new, and that's where you have the two squares and that newer part of the city, but it's still pretty old. There are lots of little streets and stuff to see. You can't see it all in one day.
NHL.com -- If you're looking for some nightlife after the games, where are you going to tell someone to go?
DK -- I'd go downtown, near Old Town Square. It's good Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can go to great dance clubs or bars or just to get a drink and sit outside somewhere. If you go to Old Town Square you will always find something. My favorite spot is called Infinity and that's located close to downtown. From the Vaclavske Namesti you can take a train or the underground maybe three stations to get there. It's maybe 10 minutes away, and it's still downtown. The difference about Prague and American cities is in Prague everything is jammed up together so everywhere you go there are buildings. We don't have skyscrapers, but it's all together. People will see it's a different city.
NHL.com -- Do Czech fans tailgate before hockey games?
DK -- No, not all that much I don't think, but it's been a while for me. They're good fans. They're fun. They're loud. They go to restaurants before the game or to pubs. They get drinks there, or they go after the game, too. Usually the Czech games start at 6 o'clock, so people will usually go out after the game."
NHL.com -- Is there a local team in the Czech Extraliga that may be playing on a night when the Rangers and Lightning aren't?
DK -- Yes, sure there are. Sparta Praha, and the other team is called Slavia Praha. It's hard to say which team is more popular. Slavia won the national championship last year, but Sparta has always been better than Slavia. Slavia plays in the same arena the NHL will be in (Sazka Arena), and Sparta plays in its own arena. The game days are Tuesday, Friday and Sunday so you may be lucky to catch a Friday game. Slavia won't be home, but Sparta might be. If you want to see Czech games you can also drive to Kladno, where Jaromir Jagr is from. Kladno has a team. I'm sure one of the three teams plays home that Friday.
NHL.com -- It's early October in Prague – what is the weather going to be like and how should someone dress?
DK -- It's hard to say. It can be really nice or it can be bad weather. I would definitely bring a warmer jacket. Not a winter jacket, but maybe a lighter jacket and have something like a long shirt under it. Definitely it could be in the 50s. It's the same way it would be in New York City.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.