Translations by Tomas Jandik
Petr Sykora: If Jagr came back to Pittsburgh, I'd let him stay in the basement (HN daily interview) - 17-Mar-09
Q: There always used to be a ďCzech colonyĒ in Pittsburgh, and now you are here all by yourself. Have you, for example, tried to recommend some of your countrymen to the teamís management, so that you are not here alone?
A: I have played in the NHL for a long time, and I am no longer affected by things like that. I can equally relate to a Czech or to a Canadian. It would definitely be nice to have somebody who I was growing up with here, but I certainly donít have any problems with being the only Czech in here.
Q: Do you think that Jaromir Jagr could come back to Pittsburgh? He said recently that for Mario Lemieux, the current owner of the club, he would play even free of charge.
A: Honestly, I think Jarda probably made fun of everybody. He is signed in Russia for another year. What will happen after that is still up in the air, but I think that his return to Pittsburgh is not likely. Even we did not discuss the alleged Jagrís return. One player mentioned it once, but the discussion was over in an instant.
Q: The house where you live now belongs to Jagr. If he indeed came back, would you let him sublet it?
A: Not at all, I live in that house now, so bad luck for Jarda Ė he would have to look for something else. Though when I think about it, maybe Iíd let him stay in the basement. I definitely would not move out, especially now that the house is no longer being haunted.
Q: Jagrís house used to be haunted?
A: Last year I used to be really surprised. The chandelier was swinging, we heard strange noisesÖ. This year itís better. Here, the houses are built differently that in the Czech Republic, where everything is nicely honest, brick-based. Here, they bring four wooden walls, screw them together. And when the wind starts blowing a little, the whole house starts moving and making cracking noises. I guess thatís probably all that haunting mystery.
You said before the start of the season that your target is 30 goals. Will you manage scoring it?
A: I said that it would be nice [to get there]. I donít want to talk about it much. When one talks a lot, things start going wrong. But yes, 30 goals is my ultimate hurdle that Iíd like to beat. If I continue to be as successful as I have been until now, if I continue to be healthy, and if the coach lets me play alongside Crosby or Malkin, there is a real chance I would be able to make it.
Q: You scored your first hattrick prior to the end of the year Ė something you had been waiting for a long time. How much did you have to pay to teamís bank?
I did not have to pay anything. I just invited several of my teammates for a dinner. Here itís different from the Czech Republic. Over there, when a young player makes the roster, he has to pay the ďinitiation fee,Ē more money for the first scored goal, more money for the first hattrick. Here, the mentality is different. But you occasionally have to pay money as well.
Q: For what?
A: For example I won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey. Since then everytime we play Jersey, I have to write my name on the board and put $200-$300 into the bank. If we win the game, the money stays in the teamís bank. By the way, the person in charge of the bank is me.
Q: What do you spend that money for?
A: Because everybody on our roster played somewhere and won something, quite a lot of money ultimately ends up in the bank. Before Christmas, we gave the money we collected to the teamís masseurs, and to the guys who sharpen our skates or do our laundry. Everybody got extra $2,000-$3,000.
Q: In the locker room, you sit next to a bench with a sign that says ĎMario Lemieux.í How often does he come here to sit on that bench?
A: To tell the truth, we donít see Mario very often. Maybe three or four times per season, that would be my high estimate. Personally, I spoke to him this season twice. But yes, this is his place, and nobody will ever sit here, thatís for sure.
Q: If you make it to the play-offs, will he come here more often?
A: No. Even last year during play-offs he gave us our space. We knew he was around. But itís better that way. When the owner comes to the locker room, it causes too many questions on the playersí side. They are afraid that something would happen and changes would be made. He does see our every game, though.
Q: So is Mario Lemieux more of an idol or more of a scary owner?
A: He is an owner, but Mario is simply a legend. Every time I see him my knees start trembling a little. Even though he is the owner now, he will always be *that* Mario Lemieux, and nothing can ever change it. In my eyes, he alongside Wayne Gretzky will always be the best.
Q: The financial crisis is the big theme around the world. Is that something thatís being discussed among the players in the locker rooms as well?
A: The financial crisis is everywhere and it cannot be ignored. The majority of my teammates had a lot of money invested in the markets, and most of them experienced the same things like everybody around the world. The markets went down and they lost a lot of money. I have to say I got lucky, because I did not have my money invested there. These days we also discuss what would happen with our salaries.
Q: Deep salary cuts due to the crisis were mentioned. Whatís the most recent news?
A: Last year they took 12%-13% from our salaries, which were later returned, but this year we hear everywhere that the cuts may be as high as 22%. If they took away that much on top of the 50% tax rates we pay, we would basically play free of charge.
Q: Your contract with Pittsburgh is over after the end of the season. Isnít it the right time for your return back to Europe?
A: If ĎStrachaí [Martin Straka, the GM of HC Pilsen] gives me 20 millions, then Iíll play in Pilsen. But now seriously. Iíd like to sign another contract with Pittsburgh. The family is happy here and I play alongside guys I have always wished to play with. Last year I scored 28 goals, and several quite important goals during the play-offs; this year Iím quite successful as well, so I hope I made a good impression here.
Q: So Russia does not tempt you at all?
A: No, definitely not. Among other things, my son is an American, and so Iíd like to play in the US as long as possible. Iíd like him to speak [English] fluently, without an accent. Nevertheless, his first language will always be Czech.
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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