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Doan thankful for 'incredible' Prague opportunity

by Shawn P. Roarke
PRAGUE -- Shane Doan couldn't quite believe he was standing in the hallway of the Tesla Arena doing an interview before several journalists.

And it wasn't because he had -- just hours earlier -- finished an unenviable trip that saw him take off in Phoenix, stop in Halifax and then land in Prague just hours before showing up for the practice he had just finished.

No, it was because he was in Prague itself -- and not for the first time.

"Hockey is incredible," Doan said. "The game gives you opportunities to do things that you never would otherwise. I mean, I'm from a small town in Alberta and I would never get the chance to come here. It's fun and I'm happy to be a part of it."

The Coyotes, as a whole, were happy to be a part of it as they hooted and hollered their way through a rather brisk 60-minute practice designed to get the legs moving after a long flight.

"Hockey is incredible. The game gives you opportunities to do things that you never would otherwise. I mean, I'm from a small town in Alberta and I would never get the chance to come here. It's fun and I'm happy to be a part of it."
-- Shane Doan

"The guys were having a blast out there," coach Dave Tippett said. "Usually with practices like these, you want to have a lot of movement and a lot of flow, not a lot of thinking. You just want to get the legs moving. Guys went out, worked really hard, executed really well and had some fun out there. That's good to see."

Yes, the Coyotes were all smiles Monday afternoon, if only because jet lag had not fully set in.

Nobody was smiling more, though, than the team's three Czech players -- Petr Prucha, Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal -- as they filed off the ice after practice.

In his own way, each player was happy to be back in the capital of the country they call home in the offseason. They didn't even seem to mind being swarmed by mobs of media as they came off the ice.

"It was over 13 hours flight, so it was a long day, but we just had a good skate," Vrbata told "We'll get a good meal tonight, some sleep and just right back at it."

Vrbata does have the drill down, having already played in a Premiere Game series in Prague when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning three years ago.

"I'm lucky that this is the second time in Prague for me for an NHL game, so I know what to expect," he said.

Plus, Vrbata knew all about Tesla Arena, which hosted Monday's practice before the teams move to 02 Arena on Tuesday for the rest of the week's activities.

He has been coming to this historic old barn for as long as he can remember.

"I played here ever since we were little," Vrbata told "Played here against (Czech club Sparta) Praha teams. My brother played for Praha for a couple years. This building is special for everybody. This is where the national tournaments were and everything. Every time you come here to play against Sparta, it was special; you felt a little bit intimidated. "

Nobody, though, was feeling intimidated Monday at Tesla.

Weariness might have been the dominant emotion at the conclusion of practice, but Doan -- the salty veteran that he is -- knew it soon would turn to anticipation and wonder as the boys got out Tuesday to experience all this magical city has to offer.

"Prague is such a beautiful city and it is nice to get out and be able to see different parts of it," Doan said. "It's so unique in that you want to experience it because it is such an amazing country. I mean people all over the world travel here and we get a chance to visit and we want to enjoy it."

Yet, Doan insists he and his teammates all know the gift hockey has given them by dropping them in the middle of the Czech Republic must be repaid with an honest effort this weekend when the team faces the Boston Bruins to open the 2010 NHL regular season with a two-game 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Game series.

"We know how important these two games are for us," Doan said. "We have to make sure we are ready to go."
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