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Translations by Tomas Jandik
Robert Lang: I guess Iím done. But Iím all right. (interview with "Sport" daily) - 20-Feb-11
http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=cs&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fisport.blesk.cz%2Fclanek%2Fhokej%2F101779%2Frobert-lang-asi-koncim-ale-jsem-v-pohode.html&act=url

Q: Robert Lang and hockey. Will it ever go together again?
A: I guess not. Unless somebody calls me before the playoffs and gives me an offer that would be worth playing. An offer that would make sense. Then Iíd think about it. Iím in a shape; I still exercise, I stay fit. Thatís not a problem. But I am 40 years old, I have two smart boys at home, and I simply have no reason to jump after the first bid that comes along.

Q: How many offers for this season have you rejected so far?
A: Well, there were some. Before the season, around ChristmasÖ But when I counted the pros and cons, I figured out it wasnít worth it. I have kids in schools, I want to take care of them, and now because of a single season, was I supposed to move from the west to the east? At any price? Why? I am not thirty so I really donít need to yank my kids out of their favorite environment and look for the schools at the completely different side of the continent. I considered all those things and I found out that there was no reason to take it. Yeah, if somebody called from a closer distance and offered me a reasonable role on the ice, Iíd go for it.

Q: Do I understand it well that money did not play a role then or now?
It definitely does not [play a role]. People think that 40 or so year old a player canít get as many minutes on the ice as in the past. I donít think so, but the majority of the influential people do. And because over the year I got used to playing a lot, to be on the ice during power-plays and during the most important game times, I donít jump with joy when facing the opportunity to play on the 4th line. Do you understand?

Q: Certainly.
A: I donít want to show off, but I really have no desire to watch guys who canít tie my shoe laces from the bench. This is what I experienced in Phoenix a little bit during the last year. Even though I was playing well, I felt my coach did not need me that much, and so I got only 9-10 minutes [per game]. The teams now more and more play youngsters who often arenít good enough, but the coaches want them to gain experience. I did not want to have anything in common with this new way of playing hockey.

Q: Basically, at your age, you are refusing to be stressing out over hockey, a game that you enjoyed for such a long time.
A: Exactly. You took that right out of my mouth. {He smiles} I had a career that I have liked and I donít want to spoil it by squeezing one more year at any price, while sitting on a bench being pissed off, banging my stick because I donít get to play. It would be something different for a guy who spent his whole life on the 3rd line. He would be grateful for every extra year and a few more minutes to his credit. I just canít imagine that after playing on the first two lines for years Iíd be sitting on my butt.

Q: So even the 11 games that separate you from the 1,000 NHL game milestone wonít shake you, right?
A: No, absolutely not. Sure, it would be nice, itís an interesting number. But to suffer hockey-wise just to reach [that number] Ė definitely not. I donít want to sound like a show-off, but like I said Ė [the offer] would have to have a certain standard and make sense. Then Iíd play with a gusto.

Q: And how likely is that? Ten percent?
A: You know, itís quite likely that nobody would call, but it could happen that Iíd pick up my phone tomorrow, Iíd listen to the other side Ė and I will go for it. But if somebody thinks that I am sitting by the phone, praying for the call, then he is totally wrong. {He smiles}

Q: Maybe they were praying in Litvinov recently, hoping that youíd pick up the phone and say yes to the emphatic call of your homeland. But [their request] was just some wishful thinking, wasnít it?
A: Well, that was something, that Litvinov. They released something to the media, and I then answered one call after another, as my friends were asking when Iíd be coming back to the Czech Republic Ė because the media said so. My dad also asked me if I was serious about it. I hardly knew what he was talking about. I found out about the whole thing as the last one, and I had to laugh about it. The only person [in Litvinov] I was in touch with was ďRuchaĒ [Martin Rucinsky]. A long time ago he asked me if Iíd be interested in playing for Litvinov. I told him that I would not disregard it completely, but that we would have to talk more if [that possibility] became serious. And we havenít talked to each other since Christmas.

Q: So you did not talk to Robert Reichel about it?
A: Not at all. I havenít talked to Alby ever since he left the NHL. He called me a few times before the summer farewell party for him and Jiri Slegr. I was in Hawaii, then in California. Alby left a message on my answering machine, but we did not get connected in time. And I havenít talked to Jiri for several years, either. I think for five years. I am not angry with him that he considered me to be a player who could potentially help Litvinov, thatís OK. But the fact it that the only Litvinov player I ever talk to is ďRucha.Ē

Q: I know that Toronto was seriously interested in you; who were the other candidates?
A: Toronto was there, thatís right. So was Tampa. That time, I was actually with Petr Svoboda [the agent] in Montreal. Lightning called him and he was like ďget your skates ready.Ē They were calling twice per day. But then everything went back to sleep. Iíll tell you what it is. They all expect that youíd play basically for free. That when you are 40, youíd be thankful for any offer. And so I told Petr: not under those circumstances. Sure, money is not a priority, but at the same time, [the offer] has to make sense financially. After all, I wonít be moving my family, rent a house, just to find at the end of the season that I am $200,000 in a loss. Thatís not possible, right? In that case, Iíd rather play in the local beer league or be on a golf course and it all will be cheaper. {He laughs}

Q: Radim Vrbata from Phoenix told me that last year, you were very close to re-signing with the Coyotes. Why didnít that work out?
A: They in particular were a team that expected me to sign basically for nothing. But considering the experience from the last play-offs I said no.

Q: What made you angry?
A: We won one play-off game, with me and Mathieu Schneider [another veteran] on the roster. And the next day, nothing Ė we did not get to play. They lost and so [the coach] put us back in. I say, hey, I donít need this. Letís not play games. Letís face it, your roster spot does is often guaranteed not by your performance, but by the contract amount. If I sign for $500,000, and I donít play well in two games, instantly some youngsters get to replace me. The coach doesnít give a sh... Lang is old, so what. And to substitute for [the coachesí] role as the educator of the youth, thatís not for me.

Q: In that case youíd rather raise your own sons, right?
A: Sure. Finally I have some time for the kids, I can take care of them. I told myself: So what, I got to enjoy plenty of hockey, it was all great, thank you very much, goodbye. Itís time to pursue something else.

Q: On top of that, I bet when you were 25, the idea you will be contemplating where to play at 40 would have sounded unreal.
A: Fifteen years ago I predicted that I would be done with hockey when I turn 30. The end. {he smiles} At that time people were under the impression that a player is old after he turns thirty. But times have changed, and now when you take care of your body, you can last much longer.

Q: When were you on the ice the last time?
A: The last time? GeeÖ WaitÖ Actually before the fall training camp time. At that time I had thought Iíd be missing hockey. And, man, itís not the case.

Q: Golf greens definitely help to forget, right?
A: Thatís right. But, besides golf, I still exercise regularly. First, I enjoy it, and it also helps me feel better. I never managed to sit on my butt for too long. But itís not like Iím buying private ice time, running up and down twice a day, recording myself on a video, and sending it to the teams, hoping that somebody would get back to me. No, letís not lie to each other. I have the desire and the physical strength to play, itís up to the others if they want to communicated reasonably.

Q: Honestly, do you expect that somebody will call?
A: I really donít know. I can be talking to you now that everything is over and I could be flying to join a team the next hour. Or I could have five teams on the other line Ė and none of them may work out.

Q: How many ice practices would you need to be able to confidently jump into the NHL play?
A: It would take two weeks to get back. At least 14 days, for sure.

Q: It looks like you wonít be entering the hockey retirement with sorrow on your soul. You seem to have the advantage; unlike many others Ė a lot of veterans canít imagine [the retirement]
A: That I would be overtaken by some sentimental moods? Nah. Not a chance. You know, I am totally satisfied with the times during which I could play hockey. My generation played in the best period for hockey. [It was] the mix of everything. There was fun, we made some good money. The guys before us were nowhere close in terms of money. The guys today make some nice amounts, but it is no longer that bitchiní fun and the relaxed atmosphere as we had during our times. Today, itís about something else.

Q: Besides the fun and money, donít forget about the gold medals. You are the Olympics winner, the World Champion. A lot of things worked out for you, am I right?
A: I agree. Totally. I canít complain, I would not trade it for anything. I played here for 17-18 years. I had a lot of fun, I found some friends for life, and on top of that earned good money. If I were to complain about anything, it would sound really dumb.

Q: Though your NHL beginnings were quite difficult, you had some tough time in Los Angeles. It took you 7 years to break the season maximum of 22 points and to achieve the firm position as a team star. It took quite some effort, didnít it?
A: I had to fight, thatís right. And thatís why later I enjoyed the moments on the top even more. I did not take anything for granted, and I respected that. Because I had to go a long way before I was able to pull my name up.

Q: You have played with 8 NHL teams, all prestigious addresses. Where did you feel the best?
A: I think that since my second year in Pittsburgh (1998) I began to feel that I belong somewhere higher. Suddenly everything started to turn for the better. More time on the ice, more points, more important team role.

Q: With Penguins, you formed an excellent pair with the flashy Russian Alexei Kovalev. You two suited each other really well, didnít you?
A: Yeah. We did. Even in terms of personalities. And we are still in touch. Kovy is really upset in Ottawa; basically he has been going through the same stuff that I ran away from, that I refused to deal with at my age. He told me that he no longer has it in him, emotionally, to constantly live in pretense at the age of 40. That everything is in total deep s%^t, and that he doesnít know what to do. But back to the [previous] question. It all started with Pittsburgh and basically everything went really well until the season before the last in Montreal, where I had 18 goals in the middle of the season. But then I cut my Achilles tendon, and all was lost. It could have been a great season, well...

Q: If it werenít for that injury, which sidelined you for 6 months, youíd still be comfortably playing, what do you think?
A: I think so, too. Itís all Ďwhat ifí, but at that time, we were already discussing a contract extension. Logically, it did not work out. If you cut Achilles tendon at thirty-eight, you are a write-off the moment you are groaning in pain on the ice. {he smiles} So I am not surprised that Montreal was not waiting for me to heal. Thatís life; I have never cursed that moment. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they donít. And to constantly dwell over something, thatís stupid.

Q: What do your kids do?
A: The older one, Kelly, is into skateboarding. In Phoenix, they have a school that specializes on those boards. He is in a classroom during mornings, and riding the skate in a part of schoolwork for the afternoons. He enjoys it. Heís young, nine years, he is starting with that. Letís see how things work out. Brooks is six and half, plays hockey, but now he is into baseball for a change. He enjoys it a lot. But you know how kids are Ė today they are really excited about something, and next week they want to play something else. So thatís how it goes.







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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