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The Five-minute Interview: MARTIN STRAKA

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
There's no question that alternate captain Martin Straka has been one of the true heroes of the Rangers' resurgence over the past two seasons

After signing with the team as an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 2, 2005, Straka became a fixture on the team's No. 1 line, often playing the left wing opposite captain Jaromir Jagr. The versatile Straka, however, was also capable of filling in at center, and by the end of last season, he was centering Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan.

Straka's easy-going nature and remarkable professionalism would make him an asset to any NHL team, but 15 years after entering the league as a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Straka has clearly found a home in New York, where fans appreciate both his speed and determination. The only Rangers player with a hat trick in each of the past two seasons, Straka had some great moments in 2006-07, including a dramatic overtime game-winner in Pittsburgh, scored with only 2.2 seconds remaining.

On Monday, Straka joined his teammates for the Rangers' annual golf outing, held on the eve of another annual event -- today's Blue-White scrimmage. Straka took time out from the golf event for this exclusive five-minute interview with How did your summer go and where did you spend it?

Straka: Right after the season, we went to Miami for a couple of weeks. Then we went home (to the Czech Republic). We stayed home the whole time, and then after that I started practicing with a couple of my buddies, and that was it.

Martin Straka celebrated 29 goals in 2006-07 and could find himself celebrating even more this year given the team's remarkable depth at forward. Is it hard to go back and forth between New York and your hometown of Plzen? Do you find it difficult to adjust each time you switch countries?

Straka: No, it's good. I've been doing this for 13 or 14 years now. You always want to go back home with the family because our parents, our grandparents and all of our friends are there. We want to see them, obviously. We want to get out of here for a couple of months just to relax and enjoy the family and all that. We always enjoy going home, but we enjoy coming back to be here. After all, this is my job and I love to do this and I like to come back. Do you get recognized a lot by hockey fans when you're back in the Czech Republic?

Straka: Plzen has about 350,000 people, and obviously people know me there, so I do get recognized. But that's OK. I live outside of the city, but obviously when I go to town or go out or go to dinner, people know who I am and they come up to me. But that's really fine. Isn't Plzen famous for being the home of Pilsner beer?

Straka: Yes, that's correct. It's the best beer in the Czech Republic. It's good, because during the off-season you get a chance to drink some of it, too. Where were you when you learned that Chris Drury and Scott Gomez would be joining the team as free agents?

Straka: I was back home and waiting to see what happened on July 1. When I heard about the signings, I was very surprised and happy, too. Because those are two big, big players and will be a huge help for the team and now I really think we have a good chance (at the Stanley Cup). When you heard the team had signed two more star centers, did you figure you would no longer be asked to play center in addition to left wing?

Straka: No, I didn't really look at it that way. I really don't care where I play. I just thought those signings were going to help the team. Obviously, you can't look at the situation just how it affects you as an individual. You have to look at the whole picture, that's the main thing. That's the most important thing -- how your team is going to do. So that was huge. It was a big, big signing. You played both center and left wing for the Rangers last season. Which do you consider your natural position and do you have a preference?

Straka: When I was younger, I played center a lot. But over the last five or six years, I've been playing mostly left wing. I think left wing is a little bit easier than center. But since I've been playing left wing for the last few years, I'd say I now prefer left wing.

Martin Straka tries to get the puck past Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg during an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff game on Saturday, April 14, 2007. Do you find it difficult when you are moved around between the two positions during the course of an 82-game season?

Straka: It doesn't matter to me, but sometimes you just need a few games at the same position so you can get the timing back. Otherwise, I don't really care. You turned 35 earlier this month, and at one point last season, there was even talk that you would consider retiring. Have you really found yourself entertaining such thoughts?

Straka: It's been this way for a couple of years now. I just want to go year by year and see how I feel and see how the management feels about me, so we'll see. Did the Rangers' success last year increase your desire to keep playing?

Straka: Sure, of course. I like this team, and I felt good last season. I feel like I still have something to offer to the team. As long as I have that feeling, I'm going to keep playing. And I still get the feeling that they want me here, so I obviously want to keep playing. When I start having the feeling that I'm useless or have nothing to give to the team, that's when I'll quit and go home. You have won gold for the Czech Republic at both the Olympics and World Championships. Even if you are no longer in the NHL by 2010, would you consider playing at the Olympics in Vancouver?

Straka: Definitely not. Definitely not. I was done with the national team after the last Olympics. I didn't even go to the World Championships last year, because I have retired from the national team. I think I did enough. I was part of that for 14 years, and now I think they have a lot of good young players who deserve a chance to be on that team.
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