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Frolik welcomes Stanley Cup to Czech Republic

by Michael Langr

KLADNO, Czech Republic -- Since being involved in a draft-day trade at the end of June, Michael Frolik has been a member of the Winnipeg Jets. But Tuesday, the Stanley Cup champion was a Chicago Blackhawk for one more day.

The Stanley Cup arrived in the Czech wing's hometown of Kladno, about 25 miles west of Prague, and its suburban village, Kamenné ?ehrovice, to honor one of the two Czech countrymen who celebrated a championship in June with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wednesday, the trophy will appear in the central village of Vlašim, the hometown of Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival.

"It's a big day for me. I am definitely enjoying it," Frolik said after the Cup arrived in the Czech Republic from Chicago. "I came to the airport to welcome the Cup by myself, then we brought it to my house. I am glad we had it at home first and could take some pictures with my family."

After enjoying a morning with the Cup and the rest of the Frolik clan, the 25-year-old forward took the trophy to the small castle garden in Kladno, the hometown of numerous Czech NHL players, including Jaromir Jagr, Ondrej Pavelec, Jakub Voracek, Jiri Tlusty and Tomas Plekanec.

Tomas Kaberle and David Krejci previously brought the Cup here in 2011 after the Boston Bruins were crowned NHL champions.

Despite the extreme summer heat, more than 1,000 fans cheered and patiently waited for a chance to get an autograph from and photograph with the popular local player known as "Frolda." The event lasted almost three hours and Frolik made a point to meet with as many fans as possible.

"I am glad I could show the Cup to my friends and to the fans in Kladno. It's a town where I grew up and played hockey as a kid," he said.

In the late afternoon, the Cup was packed again and brought to Kamenné ??ehrovice, a village just outside of Kladno, where Frolik lives during the offseason. The old ballroom next to the small local pub was filled with revelers who listened to a Beatles cover band and waited for the Cup's arrival. The event even included an appearance by Rozsival, who with Frolik delighted local fans with another two hours of signing autographs and posing for photos.

"It's a nice feeling to see the Cup again, how it glints when the sun is shining," Rozsival said.

In the evening, a private party was planned by the golf clubhouse, where Frolik's girlfriend, model and Czech TV hostess Diana Kobzanová, headed a guest list that included Frolik's brother Martin (a forward with Litvinov of the Czech Elite League) and NHL players Ondrej Pavelec and Jiri Tlusty.

Frolik had good reason to celebrate: He played a sizeable role in the Blackhawks' road to the Cup. He was especially helpful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, providing reliable defense and penalty killing. He had three goals and 10 points in 23 games, matching his total from 46 regular-season games.

With that success, Frolik was surprised by the June 30 trade to Winnipeg, who acquired him six days after he lifted the Cup for the first time.

"On one hand it's a pity, because I thought I would have a bigger role in Chicago in the next season," he said. "But on the other, I have a chance to fight for that role in Winnipeg too."

Frolik spent two-and-a-half seasons in Chicago after being traded from the Florida Panthers. Prior to that, he was considered a phenom in his native Czech Republic, where he earned the nickname "Baby Jagr." Considering his speed and skills, Frolik always wanted to play among the top six forwards on an NHL team. He'll likely have a better opportunity to do that in Winnipeg.

"The Hawks have offensive power and many stars. It was not easy to get power-play time or become a part of the top two lines," Frolik said. "I hope that in Winnipeg I might have more chances to do that."

But Tuesday wasn't really about discussing training camp and trades. It was instead a final opportunity to look back and enjoy the honor of being a member of the 2013 Stanley Cup champions.

"The guards [Cup keepers from the Hockey Hall of Fame] told me what I can and can't do with the Cup," Frolik said. "I know throwing it in the swimming pool (as fellow Czech Dominik Hasek did in 2002) would be a problem. You can pour some beer or champagne into it, which will probably happen many, many times."

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