The media contingent surrounding Marian Gaborik
on Wednesday at Tesla Arena had to make him feel like he was back at Madison Square Garden during the playoffs.
Gaborik isn't a native of the Czech Republic, but the interest in him here is more than double that of any other Ranger. He is from Trencin, Slovakia, which is closer to Prague than Boston is to New York.
He saw familiar faces in the stands during Wednesday's open practice and has been talking with the media in his native language. It has all helped Gaborik feel comfortable in what is a foreign place to all of his teammates.
"It's almost home," said Gaborik, who will play Thursday when the Rangers face HC Sparta as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge. "It used to be Czechoslovakia and we call each other brothers in a sense and speak pretty much the same language. I'm not surprised that there are a lot of fans and media here. There are some Slovak and some Czech media here that I have dealt with in the past."
"It used to be Czechoslovakia and we call each other brothers in a sense and speak pretty much the same language. I'm not surprised that there are a lot of fans and media here. There are some Slovak and some Czech media here that I have dealt with in the past."
-- Marian Gaborik
Several of the journalists told NHL.com that they are mostly interested in Gaborik because he's a recognizable face to the people here and he talks in a language they all understand. The Slovak language is very similar to Czech, especially for people who were alive before Czechoslovakia was divided 18 years ago.
"We can put him on TV," said Vojtech Gibis of Lidove noviny, which means People's News. "And we don't have to use any translation."
"It doesn't matter where he's from in Slovakia," added Martin Korbas of iDNES.cz, one of the most popular websites in the Czech Republic.
Gaborik will get to go back to his home country Sunday when the Rangers fly into Bratislava to play HC Slovan. Bratislava is about 75 miles from Trencin, so the interest in Gaborik there should be even greater than it is here.
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However, the Rangers are only in Bratislava for the day, so the chance for the media to really get Gaborik talking is in Prague.
"It is special, definitely," Gaborik said. "It's something different just to play in Europe. I've played in the League for 12 years so it's definitely a bit of a challenge, excitement and a good experience, a fun experience."
Even though he's not from Prague, Gaborik is getting questions from his teammates about where to go and what to eat. He's been here enough that he has been able to tell them a few things, but not nearly as much as he would if the Rangers were in Bratislava for a couple of nights.
"It's too bad we're only in Bratislava for half a day," Gaborik said.
Even if he can't be the greatest tour guide for his teammates, Gaborik has been able to help them get used to some of the customs here.
For instance, how they're supposed to sleep.
"The guys were surprised that there were no (top) sheets on the bed, that there were only comforters," Gaborik said with a laugh. "Hey, get used to it, we're in Europe here. I was surprised when I got to the U.S. with (top) sheets on the bed. I haven't used them since I got there. I'm used to the European style."
Now his teammates are getting used to what Gaborik knows best, even if it's not exactly his home.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl