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Czech This Out

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

It’s easy to take for granted having the New York Islanders around. For fans like David Pavlicek, getting to a game is no easy feat. For Pavlicek, a change at Jamaica involves going through Kennedy Airport first.

That’s because Pavlicek – who is a die-hard Islanders fan – is from Prague. A fan since childhood, he finally saw the Islanders play in person, flying all the way from the Czech Republic for games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins two weeks ago.

Pavlicek made the pilgrimage for the puck because he wanted to see John Tavares play in person, meet fellow fans and shout Yes!

“I love the ‘Yes’ chant,” Pavlicek said. “I was really looking forward to the moment so I could do it. It was a little bit of drama – a long wait for that.”

He doesn’t remember the exact moment he became an Islander fan, but he knows it has to do with hockey cards. Something – the logo, the jersey, a player – drew him to the Islanders and it’s since become a lifelong love affair. Pavlicek works for his favorite soccer team, Sparta Prague, but his heart – or at least his wallet – might be more with the Islanders.

“I work for Sprata Prague, but I have more Islanders souvenirs than Sparta Prague souvenirs at home,” Pavlicek, whose favorite player is John Tavares, said. “And I’ve been a fan of Sprata Prague since I was little.”

The Czech Republic is considered one of the bigger hockey nations in Europe – it hosts the IIHF World Championships last season – but Pavlicek is one of the few Islanders’ fans in Prague. He knows of a few other fans like himself, but they don’t know each other personally.

From what he does know, they’re checking out Islanders highlights before breakfast because of the awkward start times. 7 p.m. ET puck drops means a 1 a.m. wake up call for him – staying up for all 82 games is tough, though technology has made it easier for Pavlicek, and international fans like him, to follow the team, through game highlights, Gamecenter and Twitter. The onus is on him though to seek out coverage.

“It’s tough because the Czech media mostly follows the teams with Czech players and when Zidlicky is injured, they aren’t that interested in the Islanders,” he said. “They are just following [Jaromir] Jagr.”

His daily ritual begins with Islanders before anything else, and their performance on the ice often dictates how his day will go from there.

“The first thing I do right after waking up is checking my mobile phone, the Islanders’ app, the score, then I kiss [Anna] good morning,” he said. “According to how my face looks, she knows if I’m going to have a good day or a bad day.”

But for Pavlicek – who saw the Islanders go 2-1 and his favorite player score a pair of goals – any day watching the Islanders live is a good day.

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