CHICAGO -- Jakub Voracek has had several unforgettable moments during his hockey career. Playing as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Czech Republic will be among the most memorable.
The Flyers will play the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague on Oct. 4 to open the 2019-20 regular season, the NHL announced Thursday.
"Obviously it's something as a kid, you don't think it's possible," said Voracek, who grew up in Kladno, 20 miles west of Prague. "But with the way the NHL is going, I think it's great for us. To see all the friends and family, being able to attend an NHL game you can participate in, it'll be special. It's going to be exciting. I think everyone's pretty pumped up for Prague."
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Voracek has represented the Czech Republic in international competition at the junior and senior levels, serving as captain for the World Championships in 2015 and 2017. He won a gold medal in 2010 and a bronze the following year. He was named the best player from the Czech Republic in 2015.
But since his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008-09 season and joining the Flyers in the 2011-12 season, the 29-year-old forward has never represented his NHL team in the Czech Republic.
That will change when the Flyers travel to Europe for the first time.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who is also from Kladno. "There was one game in Czech a lot of years back and it had a really good [feel]. People really loved it and I believe the Czech people deserve an NHL game. They're going to love it and it's going to be a big deal for us."
In the first NHL regular-season game in Prague, the New York Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Oct. 5, 2008. Two years later, the Boston Bruins and the Phoenix Coyotes played a two-game series to open the regular season and each team won once. Czech-born forward Radim Vrbata had two goals and an assist in the 5-2 win by the Coyotes on Oct. 9. The Bruins won 3-0 the next night.
Video: The NHL returns to Czech Republic
The present-day NHL Global Series began in 2017, when the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators played two regular-season games in Stockholm, Sweden. The Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils opened the regular season in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Oct. 6, 2018, and the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets played two regular-season games in Helsinki, Finland, on Nov. 1 and 2, 2018.
Before playing in Prague, the Flyers will complete their 2019 training camp in Lausanne, Switzerland and will play the Swiss pro club Lausanne in an exhibition at Vaudoise Arena on Sept. 30.
The Blackhawks, going to Europe for the third time, will finish their training camp in Berlin, Germany, where they will play an exhibition game against Eisbaren Berlin of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
Like the Flyers, the Blackhawks have players with ties to the countries in which they are playing.
Blackhawks forward David Kampf is from Jirkov, Czech Republic, about 90 minutes northwest of Prague. Forward Dominik Kahun was born in Plana, Czech Republic, about two hours west of Prague, but he and his family moved to Wieden, Germany when Kahun was 3.
Kahun, who won silver with Germany at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and still has family in the Czech Republic, is looking forward to playing in each country.
He's especially happy about playing in Germany, where, as a forward with Red Bull Munich, he played against Berlin in the DEL final in 2017 and 2018.
"I don't know if the fans are going to cheer me or boo me, but I'm just really excited," Kahun said. "It's a great rink, the fans are great here and all of the guys will like it."
Kahun said Germany embraced hockey more after the national team won Olympic silver. He hopes the Blackhawks' trip there continues to increase hockey's popularity in Germany.
"At the start of the Olympics, nobody was watching the hockey games. But when we went to the semis, I think five million woke up at four in the morning and watched it," Kahun said. "We try, every year, to get hockey bigger in Germany. So, it'll be nice to play there."