By Stephanie Maniago
When you walk into the Canucks dressing room these days, it is almost as if you are stepping inside the UN Headquarters.
A cornucopia of languages can be heard, indicative of the international presence that is found on the Canucks roster. Canadians (both Anglophones and Francophones), Americans, Swedes, Finns and Czechs can all be spotted within the confines of the four walls.
These cultural differences between the Canucks make for an interesting dynamic. Each player has a unique story to tell and luckily the Europeans are multilingual.
On June 23, 2006, Lukas Krajicek added Czech representation to the Canucks roster when he was acquired in a trade alongside Roberto Luongo
and a sixth round draft pick in 2006 from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.
Krajicek (pronounced KRI-chek) is from the small town of Prostejov, located in the Olomouc (Eastern) region of the Czech Republic. It's a quiet town, inhabited by approximately 50,000 people and is perhaps best known for its special military forces.
Both his father and brother served for the military when conscription was in effect. The rules were changed and when Lukas turned 18 it was no longer mandatory to enlist. Instead, Krajicek was making a name for himself in the OHL as a member of the Peterbourough Petes and playing in his first NHL game as a member of the Florida Panthers.
"It's also one of the main cities for [fashion]," says Krajicek of his hometown. He admits, though, that he wouldn't make Mr. Blackwell's best dressed list. "I try to keep it average and not get it too flashy," Lukas says of his sense of style. "In fact, most times when I come to practice the guys make fun of me for wearing my sweats." FISHING FOR LOVE
Like many kids, Lukas grew up playing a number of sports, developing a love for not only hockey, but tennis as well.
"A lot of the top [tennis] players in the Czech Republic are from my area," he says.
Some of these players include international stars Tomas Berdych (ranked 13th; highest international ranking was 10th) and Jan Hajek (ranked 76th) on the men's professional tennis tour (ATP rankings as of December 21, 2006).
"Every summer when I'm back home I get the chance to watch a lot of them in tennis tournaments."
In addition to watching the sport, you can also find Lukas hitting the court himself, playing singles and doubles matches throughout the off-season.
During the summers at home, Lukas would also frequently fish, a hobby he quickly learned that he shared with a number of his Vancouver teammates. While he didn't quite trust the edibility of the fish from the waters where he cast his line, it was a hobby he enjoyed nonetheless. It only seemed fitting, then, that his new roommate on the Canucks would be fellow fishing aficionado, Willie Mitchell.
"Lukas has been dying to go fishing since he first got here," says yet another Canuck mate and avid fisherman, Brendan Morrison.
The schedule was not conducive to head out fishing until a team day off in the middle of December afforded Lukas the opportunity to partake in this endeavour. A number of Canucks grabbed their tackle and headed over to Port Alberni where they fished the Stamp River. The 6'2", 190-pound defenceman shared a boat with Canucks goaltender Dany Sabourin and, insider reports claim that no one returned home empty handed.
It is pretty safe to say that Lukas will be travelling out on the BC waters again. "My brother hasn't come here yet," says Lukas of his older sibling Jan, who played hockey for nine years in the Czech Elite League and is currently in his fifth season in England. "But I've told him about the fishing here. He's a huge angler and he definitely wants to come over here to try it out after hearing about how great it is."
"Lukas has a great personality for fishing," says Morrison. "He's very laid back and has the patience to be an excellent fisherman." It's a personality that Canucks fans have been introduced to in the 2006-07 season. GLOBALLY INSPIRED
The smooth skating defenceman has shown patience and maturity well beyond his years on the ice. Krajicek notched his first goal as a Canuck, the overtime winner, on October 21, 2006 against the Nashville Predators and has demonstrated great poise ever since.
He continues to learn by observing and talking to his veteran partner Mitchell. Watching the pair play, you can tell that despite growing up in two very different countries and speaking two very distinct languages, Willie and Lukas have no problems communicating.
"Willie's his best friend in the league," chirps another teammate from across the room during the interview. Lukas laughs and says "all the guys on the team are great and are really easy to get along with." Despite the laughter you can tell that Krajicek makes this statement with great sincerity.
And with Lukas having aspirations of travelling to different parts of Europe and New Zealand, it's a good thing he gets along so well with his teammates. Dividends may pay off if he ever chooses to visit the likes of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden (home of Henrik and Daniel Sedin
, plus Markus Naslund) or Turku, Finland (home of Sami Salo
) during the off-season.
Despite varying places of origin on the Canucks passports, the players are not as different from one another as one may have initially thought. Each member has his own story but many have similar experiences despite being born in the Czech Republic, Sweden or Canada.
Their hobbies outside of hockey have given reason to bond, making the group so tight-knit. The Canucks dressing room is essentially a microcosm of Canadian society, showing how interesting and enjoyable life can be in a multicultural realm.
And Krajicek is living proof that despite the international flare on the team, the love of hockey transcends all language and cultural barriers.