JOHNSON: Your hometown, Kladno, has churned out so many NHLers over the years. Jagr, Pivonka, Plekanec, Voracek, Pavelec. Gudas. And the list goes on. Obviously quite the nurturing ground for aspiring hockey players.
FROLIK: A pretty cool place to grow up. My town is a hockey town, so many players are from there. I just remember my brother, six years older than me, going to watch his games and watching the pro team there. See the fans cheering, all the excitement. I wanted to be a part of that.
So it was always my dream to play for that team, to one day play in the men's league. I never thought I could go this far. All our family was about hockey. My dad (Stanislav) played, too. Even if I had to skip school for hockey it was OK. So I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't made it in hockey. But it was like that. A lot of guys to look up to.
JOHNSON: One above all?
FROLIK: Obviously when I was little, Jagr. For sure. Everybody knew him. There wasn't much coverage in Czech of NHL when I was growing up but everybody knew him. I remember Jagr coming to one of our practices, I must've been six or seven, and skating with us in a Pittsburgh jersey. I'm sure I have some old pictures at home of that, somewhere.
He was like a god to us.
A cool moment.
JOHNSON: You've now played alongside your childhood god on multiple occasions. A lot of times when we finally do meet and interact with our heroes they don't quite live up to expectations.
FROLIK: Things change a little bit as you get older, of course. I've met him a few times with the national team over the years. You can see, yeah, that he's a little different. In a good way. What he does off the ice and in preparation for games is really interesting. You see what still drives him to play and play well. It's pretty amazing.
It was fun to see what works for him. Definitely cool to be in the same room and play together on the national team.
JOHNSON: You said your dad played.
FROLIK: Until he was 30 years old in the second Czech league. It wasn't easy back in those days, nobody was leaving, so there were two pretty good leagues. After he retired, he got his own company.
JOHNSON: Other sporting interests?
FROLIK: I played soccer, too. We lived in a small village beside Kladno and I played for our team there. At 13, I chose hockey and decided to stick to that. I'm glad I did.
JOHNSON: Was there a point in time when you began to believe a pro career was possible?
FROLIK: I always played against older guys, one or two years older usually. So I was always ahead. My goal was to play for my hometown team. When you play for the national teams, 16, 17, you start to think maybe you could go somewhere with it as a career.
JOHNSON: Did you mind being called Baby Jagr as your skills developed and your profile grew?
FROLIK: Did I mind it? No. Everybody who's young in Czech and pretty good, they compare to Jagr. (Thomas) Hertl, recently. But we know there's only one Jagr. Nobody can get close to him. An unbelievable player. So I never took it seriously. Same hometown, my idol growing up so it was nice, actually. But I knew it was never going to be close.
JOHNSON: Veering off topic a bit … best vacation spot.
FROLIK: In Spain. A little island called Formentera, close to Ibiza. I've been there a couple of times. Or St. Bart's in the Caribbean. One of the nicest places I've ever seen. Beautiful.
JOHNSON: Top of the to-go bucket list?
FROLIK: I've never been to Hawaii …
JOHNSON: C'mon. You've never been to Hawaii? Even I'VE been to Hawaii.
FROLIK: (smiling) Yeah, but you're a lot older.
But I think Hawaii's the next destination.
JOHNSON: Favorite band.
FROLIK: OI'm not really a one-band kinda guy. I kinda like what's current. But if I had to choose, a Czech rock band called Kabat. We always play them in the room when I'm with the national team.
JOHNSON: Favorite non-hockey athletes?
FROLIK: I like soccer. So (Lionel) Messi, obviously. I think he's great. So fun to watch. I enjoy watching Ronaldo, too. They're the best in the world right now.
And Roger (Federer). You can't go wrong there. I had a chance to meet him for a little bit when I was at the tournament in Miami. Everybody kind of loves him, even the other players. Seems like such a class guy. And it's amazing what he's done, still doing - winning two Grand Slams this year. He's The Man, for sure.
JOHNSON: Your girlfriend Diana Kobzanova is, like yourself, well known back home.
FROLIK: She is. She was a host in radio for a long time, one of the top three radio stations in Czech. She had her own show. And she was a model before she went to radio.
JOHNSON: And your daughter, Ella, will turn three in December. Best part of being a dad?
FROLIK: You really find out what love means. Before, I thought I did. After she was born, everything changes. It's so nice, you come home and she runs to you, hugs you and gives you a kiss. There are no lessons to being a good parent but we're trying.
Sometimes it's busy. There are ups and downs. But in the end, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
JOHNSON: With Chicago, spring of 2013 and lifting the Stanley Cup at the TD Garden in Boston. Can you select one moment that has a special place in your mental scrapbook of that night?
FROLIK: Definitely. When we were on the ice afterwards, celebrating, and my parents came down. My brother was there, too. They arrived the day before the game, in Boston. Just barely made it in time. And the ending of the game … crazy. A special moment when you have the Cup in your hands and you can take a picture with your family. I still get goosebumps when I look at that picture or even when I think about it.
JOHNSON: Something you couldn't have envisioned when you were six or seven and Jagr showed up for a spin in his Penguins' jersey.
FROLIK: No. Never.
JOHNSON: International highlights over a lengthy list of appearances for your country?
FROLIK: I'd say two. In junior, when I was 16, my first under-20 tournament. I think it's the last medal we've won as a Czech team under-20, in 2005. So it's been awhile. I remember scoring a nice goal, going through a bunch of guys.
For men's, the bronze medal in Bratislava. We had one of the best teams ever for Czech, I'd say. Sweden just beat us in the semifinal. Everybody from NHL was there - Jagr, (Patrik) Elias. A pretty good lineup. The crowd was awesome.
A great experience.
JOHNSON: Your line, alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, was one of the revelations of the Flames' season.
FROLIK: In this league, you can never really tell. But I think you have a pretty good idea quickly after you start playing together. You can feel the click right away. Chuckie, when they put him with Backs and I, you felt that click. Immediately. After the first game together, you're thinking 'This might work.' So you keep at it, trying to improve it.
Every year's different. Things change. But I hope we can stay together and be better than last year.
JOHNSON: Replicating that feeling you had in Boston, hoisting that jug-eared silver Cup again, as a Calgary Flame, would be smashing, no?
FROLIK: When you get the taste of it, there's nothing to compare. I remember talking to Duncan Keith during the playoffs that year and he said: 'Hey, buddy. There's no better feeling in the world than this. Believe me.' And he was right.
It's hard to win. One of the hardest (trophies) in all of sports. You win a round and you've got a tougher opponent coming. And that happens three times in a row, right?
It's a long run. But that's what makes it so special. So to go all the way and beat everybody … the best feeling ever.