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FEATURE: Kubalik Makes NHL Debut in Front of Family, Friends

Numerous family, friends on hand as Dominik Kubalik makes his NHL debut in Prague, 30 miles away from hometown

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

PRAGUE - The nerves kicked in for Dominik Kubalik's parents and brother before they even arrived at O2 Arena in Prague to watch the Blackhawk winger's NHL debut.

Traffic between Kubalik's hometown of Plzen, Czech Republic and Prague was heavy and there was a concern they wouldn't complete the 90 or so kilometer trek in time to see their son and sibling take the ice prior to the Blackhawks season-opening 4-3 loss to the Flyers on Friday as part of the NHL's Global Series.

The three made it - thanks to the driving of Kubalik's brother, Tomas - and they joined seven other family members and three of Dominik's friends who were on hand to watch a dream come true.

"I'm so proud of him that he made the team and he was in the lineup," said Tomas, who at 29 is five years older than Dominik. "When we were young we always talked about it. We always played as kids and I was Toronto and he was Ottawa. Always our dream was to play in the NHL. He's at that step right now and I hope that he's going to stay there a long time."

It was an emotional moment for the entire family when Dominik took the ice for warmups, with his mother, Martina, in tears seated alongside her husband, Petr, in section 109.

"Yes, I was crying when I saw him on the ice," Martina said with Tomas interpreting. "And then during the National Anthem I started to cry a little. It was very emotional for me.

"It was amazing," she added. "A dream come true, actually. Our dream was for him to play in the NHL and I am really proud we can be here for the first game. We are so happy we made it here."

Petr Kubalik was a man of fewer words, saying through Tomas, "inside it is a great feeling. When he signed with Chicago I was thinking inside about this game but I didn't talk to Dominik about it because I didn't know if he would make the team. Now, he's made the team and I have a great feeling for him."

After the game, Dominik, who played 13:59 and finished with three shots on goal, including one on a glorious chance in the first period that Flyers goaltender Carter Hart snared with his glove, said it was "special, for sure" that his family was there to see him play.

"The first one is always a big one so I'm really happy that they could be here," Kubalik said. "After my career is over this is probably going to be the first thing I remember because I played my first NHL game at home. It's just amazing."

As far as the tears from his mother, Kubalik wasn't surprised.

"She always does that," he said with a smile. "She can't handle it too much."

Tomas Kubalik said his brother's NHL debut was the talk of their hometown of Plzen, a city in the western part of the Czech Republic.

"It's big," said Tomas, a player himself who was drafted by the Blue Jackets 135th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft and went on to appear in 12 combined games over two seasons with Columbus from 2010-12. "They know him, he played great when he was in Plzen and everybody loves him right now. He's a big superstar in our hometown."

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