Translations by Tomas Jandik
The Trade Both Happy and Sad for Straka ('Lidove Noviny' daily interview) - 11-Dec-03
THE TRADE BOTH HAPPY AND SAD FOR STRAKA
A week ago you became the new addition to LA Kings roster, and so far arguably your play has exceeded the expectations. Three goals in four games…
So far, there is nothing I can complain about. It’s always important to start the right way in a new environment. The three goals you talk about might have been a little lucky. But that’s hockey.
Until the last week, you were the “Last Mohican” out of the famous Jagr’s legion of the 90’s. Did you expect you would be traded as well eventually?
Sincerely, yes. I just did not know where to and when. Not that I really wanted to be traded out of Pittsburgh, I liked it there. It was my 7th season in Pittsburgh, and I felt at home there.
So what was the problem?
Money. The team isn’t the strongest financially, and so they were intentionally trading away the players with large contracts. Last year they traded Kovalev, before that Lang and Jarda Jagr. I was actually the last veteran on the roster, and so it was clear that I would be the next. Ultimately, I am very pleased with how the trade turned out. I ended in California where they have both a quality team and a number of Czech and Slovak players.
Many people back in the Czech Republic are shaking their heads in disbelief over the current situation in Pittsburgh and the continuing fire-sale of the quality players…
It certainly isn’t easy for anyone. The Penguins roster is now full of young players who try their best, but whose performance isn’t so far comparable to that of top NHL players. It isn’t a coincidence that Pittsburgh has momentarily the worst record in the whole NHL.
And how are you satisfied with your season so far?
As I was saying – in Pittsburgh, hockey is more less a matter of grit. You can forget technical finesses or passing game. Everybody tries to do his best, but you can hardly enjoy the team’s play. Naturally, this state got reflected in my personal stats as well. Here in Los Angeles, things could go much better. Especially now that I play alongside Slovaks Stümpel and Pálffy – they are both excellent players.
I’d like to go back to the atmosphere in Pittsburgh. To lose so many games – that must be really depressing for the players…
It is tough. The players in the locker room, the coaches and the management all try to act positively and to approach every game with the belief that there is a chance to win. But there weren’t many victories this year, and after every loss, the mood in the locker room was really gloomy. That’s a fact.
Do you ever contemplate that it is quite sad that such a good team couldn’t have been kept together? Three years ago, when Ivan Hlinka coached the team, you made it to Stanley Cup semifinals…
I have though about it quite often. It’s a real pity that such good players had to leave. I played in Pittsburgh for 7 years. Twelve years ago I started my NHL career there and I still remember what a team we had. Double Stanley Cup champions, excellent players. It was really frustrating to see them leave one after another, without any quality replacements coming back. The fans don’t deserve this, but nothing can be apparently done. Penguins need a new arena, but nobody wants to help them. The city isn’t willing to contribute to build it. I am no financial expert, but the team really lacks money. And Mario Lemieux and the other owners don’t want to lose more money anymore.
In your opinion, will Mario Lemieux play this season again, or has the series of losses broken the 'last straw' for him?
I don’t know. When he got injured, it looked like he would miss just a few games. But now it looks like something more serious. It would be a big loss if he did not play again. He is an excellent player and an outstanding person. The people in Pittsburgh were going to the games practically only because of him lately.
Based on what you’re saying, it seems to me that you must have been actually somewhat relieved to leave Pittsburgh…
As I was saying – the trade was imminent and arguably I couldn’t have picked a better team than LA Kings. So I should have been really happy. But on the other had, the trade was a little sad for me as well.
The problem is that my girlfriend Gabriela is pregnant and our first baby is due in 10 days. So there was one really sad element associated with the trade. [My girlfriend] can’t travel in this state. I had to leave her back in Pittsburgh and she wept a lot when I told her we would have to be apart for a while. It is unfortunate that I can’t support her now that she needs it the most…
So you won’t be there during the delivery?
Oh, I hope I will. Luckily, Kings will let me make a short roundtrip to be there with Gabina. So I’ll fly to Pittsburgh, and hopefully everything will work out. In addition, my mom has already left [for Pittsburgh], so that Gabi isn’t there all by herself.
Do you know whether it is going to be a boy or a girl? And have you already picked the name?
We wanted it to be a surprise. We picked the names, but so far they are a secret. I just wish for everything to work our without problems, so that we can be together again. All three of us.
Tomas Jandik is the resident Czech on LetsGoPens.com and is a man who unifies all the goodies of the American dream - meaning, of course, being a Pitt graduate, a Razorback, and a Penguins fan.
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