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JUMPING AT THE CHANCE

Michael Frolik's wealth of international experience is a boon for a Czech team looking to make noise at the Worlds

by AARON VICKERS @AAVickers / Special to CalgaryFlames.com

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Plopped down in front of the television.

Firmly glued to the tube.

Ten years old.

Peepers wide open.

Michael Frolik saw it all come together.

A pivotal moment.

"I think growing up ... you saw Nagano, right?" questioned Frolik, reflecting back on, undisputedly, the biggest moment in hockey history for the Czech Republic.

"It was crazy to remember.

"Nobody really expected they were going to go that far. All the stars from the NHL … Canada had the team. And Russia. We had good players too, but no one expected they were going to win. Hasek was unbelievable. They couldn't score on him. It was fun to watch. That final, 1-0 against Russia … I remember when they came back the whole city in Prague came to 'times square' and it was nuts.

"I watched it. It was crazy."

Crazier, perhaps, to think that the kid, born just a decade earlier, would go on to tug on the same jersey -- not once -- but now a dozen times.

It doesn't get old.

The child in him won't allow it.

"I was just thinking it would be awesome to one day play for the national team," reflected Frolik. "It's a lot of pride.

"And it's fun. When you can represent your country, it's a lot of fun.

"When I was young, I played a lot. I mean, I started early. Under-20s, Under-18s … I played four World Juniors and three Under-18s and a couple for the men's.

"You can see the crowd here. It's next door to us and the crowd is unbelievable here. I remember when I was here in 2011, the crowd was great too and we had a great team. There's a lot of good memories. We had a bronze medal.

"I think a lot of guys from the NHL came this year. I saw a good opportunity and a good team and good fans. It's close to home. A lot of friends and family can come. It's a lot of fun."

 

 

Frolik, coming off his best season, statistically, with the Flames, jumped at the chance to attend.

He couldn't last year, with the birth of his daughter, Lily.

A spring prior, wrist surgery shelved any hope of a Worlds appearance.

There was no missing 2019, though.

Another shot at the international stage.

A new chance to lead to the way.

"If I can help the guys … we've got a lot of young guys on the team … I think it's a new generation coming now and the older guys are done now, kind of, the older stars," he said. "We've got a young team. It's fun. You try to teach them a little bit and they can watch me and try to learn something."

It's valuable experience he's able to pass on.

"He's a very experienced player for our team," said Robert Reichel, an Olympic gold medal recipient in 1998 and former Flames forward, now serving as an assistant coach for the Czech Republic.

"For our young players, his experience and how he's playing will help those young players, teach them some new things. For our team, it's very key to have him here."

It's not just for the kids, though.

Frolik, the third-eldest to suit up for his country in the tournament, is hoping for a little personal satisfaction, too.

"I'm not getting any younger," Frolik, 31, admitted. "It's fun to be here.

"I'm over 30 now. Hockey is getting really young now. You never know … next year is the last year on my contract so it's tough to go when you don't have a contract. We'll see how it goes. I still had the chance to go this year and I took it. It's been fun."

 

 

Of course, he's still seeking his own Nagano moment.

His first touch of gold.

"I've got a little bronze, yeah," Frolik admitted.

"Under-20 I have one, Under-18 I have one. Two from the men's.

"A little bronze at home. It'd be nice, maybe, to go a little further.

"I think we've got a lot of games ahead and you've got to take it step-by-step and we'll see how it goes."

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