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Global Series

Voracek thrilled to host Flyers in Prague during Global Series

Forward playing tour guide, catching up with family, friends in Czech Republic

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Jakub Voracek says playing for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague on Friday will be the biggest moment of his hockey career.

"It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," the forward said of the 2019 NHL Global Series game at O2 Arena (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, NBCSP, NBCSCH). "I'm excited that I get to go back and see everybody because it doesn't happen." 

Voracek was born in Kladno, about 20 miles west of Prague, and most of his family and friends still live in the area in the Czech Republic. Many have never seen him play an NHL game in person.

 

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High on that list is Voracek's grandmother, 86-year-old Ruzena Peca, who went to all of Voracek's games growing up but hasn't had much of a chance to see him play live since he left to play for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2006.

"She's always watching back home when we are on Czech TV," he said. "She always wakes up in the middle of the night and watches me so it's kind of satisfaction for us."

Voracek's grandmother won't be the only person at O2 Arena rooting for him. He said he has purchased 70 tickets for family and friends, which came at a considerable cost and had him being judicious with who got them.

"You want your friends to see you play, especially your family," he said. "I do it for the right people. Obviously, some people asked me, they haven't seen me in five years and they're asking me for tickets, six tickets in the lower bowl, and I was like, 'Ha, good one.'"

Voracek's 195 goals are the most among active Czech Republic-born players in the League, and his 639 points are second to Boston Bruins forward David Krejci (643). He also has captained the national team at the World Championship three times, including a fourth-place finish when the tournament was held in Prague in 2015.

Video: Jakub Voracek takes the No. 16 spot on the list

"We're pretty excited to see [Voracek] go home," Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "I'm excited for everything (but) I think I'm most excited to see Jake in his element. … Definitely going to be feeding him the puck that game, get him a goal or something. Because you know he'll be on that night."

Voracek adding to his point total against the Blackhawks would continue to push him toward one of his career goals. He's 11th all-time among Czech Republic-born NHL players, a list topped by Jaromir Jagr with 1,921 (766 goals, 1,155 assists).

"Nobody is ever going to get to Jagr's level -- ever," Voracek said. "I've been around for a while, I've had some success, I've played a lot for the national team and for [the Flyers] and I still have five more years to go (on his contract). I don't set goals for the season but my goal is to win the Stanley Cup and pass [Patrik] Elias for points one day, be second after Jagr." 

Elias is second to Jagr with 1,025 points (408 goals, 617 assists).

Voracek said he's looking forward to showing his teammates around Prague, including an outing to a Champions League soccer match and a few dinners to show off some of the city's finer cuisine.

"[Gostisbehere] is in love with Czech food," Voracek said. "He likes the fried cheese with potatoes, schnitzel made the Czech way, potato salad. We've got all those thick sauces mixed with dumplings. That's why all Czech players are so heavy and good in 1-on-1 battles."

The team dinners and excursions in Prague, as well as the ones on the first leg of this trip in Lausanne, Switzerland, will provide some needed bonding time for a team that added a few new players and a new coach in Alain Vigneault during the offseason.

"There's no better way to get to know someone on your team than to go to another country and go to dinners and do activities and stuff that doesn't involve hockey and kind of get to know guys," said forward Kevin Hayes, who was acquired in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on June 3 and signed to a seven-year contract two weeks later. "When you're in Philly, guys have their own lives. I know exactly how that goes. I had my own life in previous spots and they have families, they have kids, they have stuff they have to do. So it's a lot harder to get to know someone as a new guy in the hometown than it is on the road when you're getting some dinners and hanging out."

Voracek agreed, saying as excited as he is to see his family at home in the Czech Republic, it means just as much for him to get to know some of the newer members of his Flyers family.

"It's really important to get together as a group and spend some quality time," Voracek said. Even if you're together every day at the rink, you come, you work out, you practice and then you go home to your families. (In Europe) we'll be one big family for 10 days."

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