Holik hits hard on and off the rink

Originally published on EuroReport.com in 2001

By Lucas Aykroyd

Bobby Holik relishes the role of one-man wrecking crew. Of that there can be no doubt. The big center from Jihlava of the Czech Republic made a name for himself early in his career with the New Jersey Devils by leading the “Crash Line” with Randy McKay and Mike Peluso. Although Holik also led the team in scoring in 1997 and 1998, a better measure of his consistency is the fact that he had appeared in 401 out of 410 games over the last five seasons heading into 2001-02. Playing out a deal that will pay him $3.5 million this season, the 6-4, 230-pound veteran was outspokenly critical of GM Lou Lamoriello’s failure to offer him a long-term deal in the summer, and most observers believe Holik will not return to the Devils in 2002-03. That would leave a huge hole in New Jersey’s lineup, as the two-time All-Star Game performer has shown a remarkable ability to elevate his intensity come playoff time. After stumbling in the early going, last year’s Stanley Cup final losers will need Holik’s leadership to even make the post-season this time around. EuroReport’s Lucas Aykroyd sat down for an in-depth discussion with Holik after the Devils dropped a 4-2 decision to Vancouver at GM Place on 29 December, 2001.

EuroReport: Is this team any closer to getting back on track? Any positives out there?

Bobby Holik: Not really. We can win a game here and there, but we can also lose a game here and there. Until we start winning consistently, we can’t say we’ve turned it around. It’s not time to “be positive.” It’s time to look in the mirror and realize we need to start doing the right things.

EuroReport: Do you think the team has taken longer than it should have to get over the disappointment of losing in the finals last year?

Holik: I wouldn’t say that’s a problem now. There are several things we have to work out here. This is not the place to analyze it, but it’s definitely not going the way we want to.

EuroReport: How satisfied are you with your personal performance so far?

Holik: You know what? I don’t play for my personal performance. I play to win, and we haven’t won many games. We’ve all got to get better. I don’t think about myself now. I’m concerned about what we all can do to make the team better. First and foremost, players need to play harder and put their hearts into it and play with more urgency, not just go through the motions on certain nights.

EuroReport: With the success the Czech Republic has had in the last few years, do you ever regret becoming an American citizen and not being eligible to play for your native country in the Olympics?

Holik: No. I made my decision a long time ago. I never put the Olympics at the top of my priorities. It was always winning the Stanley Cup. So I’ve never felt sorry. But I was very proud the last time in ’98 when a lot of the players I played with won it. I might be American now, but I learned how to play the game in Czech, and that’s why I was very proud of what they accomplished. Hopefully they can do it again.

EuroReport: Alexander Mogilny is another guy who’s taken a similar position about playing for Russia. While he was here, did you ever talk with him about why you feel the way you do?

Holik: No. It’s a free country. You can make your own decisions, and that’s what makes this place great. Growing up back home, you didn’t have those choices. You did what you were told and that was it. [thinks] I have a certain opinion of the Olympics nowadays. Whether it’s the Winter Olympics or the Summer Olympics, the commercialism of it is something I don’t agree with. That helped me to make the decision, because I don’t think it’s what it used to be. It’s changed tremendously. I don’t really follow it that much, because it’s just more of a big show than anything else. It’s turned into a thing where everybody wants to make money instead of just competing and winning and doing what the Olympics should be all about.

EuroReport: What do you think about the success your dad has experienced coaching the Czechs at the world junior championships?

Holik [laughing]: I think you may be coming a few days too late! I talked to him a few days before it started. Of course, they could still turn it around by being in the top four teams, but they didn’t sound too optimistic this year. It’s getting harder and harder. Anyway, it’s a small country and the talent pool is very small, but they make the best of it. They’re going to play hard and compete, but it would be very surprising if they won for the third time in a row.

EuroReport: You’re turning 31 on New Year’s Day. How do you plan to celebrate?

Holik: We have a game. It’s just another day. Age is just a number. But one thing I’ll tell you, the last two or three years have been the best years of my life, on and off the ice. It’s just been a lot of fun and it only gets better as the years go on, even though some people say it’s the other way around. Every day that goes by, I enjoy it more and more, and my family’s healthy. My career is great. I really couldn’t ask for anything more because I would just be too greedy! I have everything I ever wanted to have. And in hockey, the goal is always that third Cup, because we just missed it last year.

EuroReport: Last year in the playoffs you scored six goals, which was more than in your first five playoffs combined. What’s changed for you, when you look back on the player you used to be and what you are now?

Holik: I believe I’ve evolved into a complete player. I’ve been used against the other teams’ top lines. I’ve been used on the power play. It’s just whatever the team asks me to do, I’m able to do at a really high level. That’s why I’m playing so much now. You’re smarter, yet you’re still able to play hard and do what you really want to do.

EuroReport: What advice would you give a young centerman about shutting down a top offensive star like a Mario Lemieux or Mats Sundin?

Holik: It’s hard to say. It’s a long process to learn the game like that. I was very fortunate to play for Jacques Lemaire for four or five years when he was in New Jersey. A lot of the players complained about him because he was too defensive-minded, but personally, he turned me into a more complete player. I’m very thankful for that, and I think that’s why I’ve had more success than I would have otherwise. One-dimensional players are just not as in demand as players who can play any type of game.

EuroReport: Do you still go hiking in the off-season?

Holik: Yeah. We spend our summers out in Wyoming, around Jackson Hole.

EuroReport: What would it take for you to return in a New Jersey Devils uniform next season?

Holik: It’s a hypothetical question. I cannot answer that. Right now, I’m fully committed to the team because I have a contract with them until July. So there is nothing I could say that could make any difference now or in July. I’m just going to play hard. Hopefully the team can do better. We’ll see then. You can come back and ask me then!

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