With Kevin Kennedy
My first hockey memory was when I was three years old back in the Czech Republic and I remember that it was my uncle that got me into the game instead of my father, because my dad didn’t play hockey – he played soccer. I also played soccer, tennis, and basketball, but hockey was always number one for me.
I looked up to a lot of NHL players when I was in youth hockey and I especially liked the way Nicklas Lidstrom played. I loved how he was so calm. I also loved watching Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque and Tomas Kaberle. In the off-season, I still play and follow soccer and I rarely miss a FC Barcelona game. They’re definitely my favorite team.
I started playing professional hockey when I was a 16-year-old in my home town, Jrinec, Czech Repubic, so it feels like I’ve been playing my whole life. I never really had a part-time job, but if I didn’t make it in hockey I would have definitely tried to become an auto mechanic. I love working with cars and I always watch all those reality shows where they take old cars and fix them up. Besides hockey, I’d say cars are my biggest passion in life, but in the Czech Republic it’s very hard to make a living. It’s all about who you know and I just got lucky to be able to make a career from hockey.
My big break came when I was traded to Washington from New York. I was thankful to be drafted by the Rangers, but I didn’t really get support from that organization. My game improved a lot when I arrived in Washington because the Capitals organization believed in me and helped me become a better player by the way they trained and coached us and it showed in my game. The year before I was traded, I had two goals in 70 games and in my next season with Hershey, I scored 12 goals in 55 games. Adam Oates and Calle Johansson were huge influences on me and made me the player I am today and I’ll never forget that.