Spacek set to compete in Sweden

Originally published on IHWC.NET in 2002

By Lucas Aykroyd

Jaroslav Spacek has excelled on the international stage before, but life in the NHL hasn’t always been as kind to him. Chicago and Columbus are both cities in the American Midwest, but as Spacek is finding out, they’re worlds apart in the hockey universe. The skillful blueliner was traded to the Blue Jackets on March 19 along with a second-round pick in exchange for Columbus captain Lyle Odelein. With the Jackets far out of playoff contention, the deal likely opened the door for Spacek to join Team Czech Republic at the IIHF World Championships in Sweden. The 5-11, 206-pound stalwart captured the gold medal in both 1999 and 2001 and also represented his country at the last two Olympics. Currently, Spacek is closing in on 100 points and 300 games for his NHL career. The native of Rokycany could take this latest trade as a setback, similar to the broken finger that sidelined him in late November, but Spacek’s upbeat personality pretty much guarantees that won’t happen. IHWC.NET’s Lucas Aykroyd caught up with the four-year NHL veteran after his Jackets dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on March 28.

IHWC.NET: What was your reaction when you learned you’d been traded to Columbus?

Jaroslav Spacek: Actually, everybody said on TSN [The Sports Network] all day I was going somewhere in a trade. I saw my name on the screen and it was like five minutes before the deadline. I was a little surprised that they traded the youngest defenseman on the team. But you know, it’s a business. I will miss the playoffs, of course. Chicago is a pretty good team and should be able to go farther. It’s a new experience here and I love to be here. This is a good team. But we have to work a little harder and I think everything will be better next season for sure.

IHWC.NET: How do you feel about the way you’ve been playing this year?

Spacek: I didn’t play too much in Chicago, around 15 minutes. Here, I play around 20 or 25, so I’m so happy to be here. Sometimes it’s tough to lose like this. We’ve had a couple games like this. We lost to Detroit at home when we were up 2-1 with five minutes left in the game. I think if we can work on some things, this team will be great.

IHWC.NET: Another deadline deal involved your old Florida teammate Pavel Bure going to New York. What did you think of the negative comments Trevor Kidd and Bill Lindsay made about him?

Spacek: If you say that, you can say it first to the guy on the ice or inside the locker room, not to the press. It’s different if you’re traded somewhere else. It’s a little tough, but it happened. I think I would like to see Billy come to Pavel and tell him right away, especially if you play together on the same team. That’s how this works. It’s not good for the team. Everybody will remember it, especially Pavel.

IHWC.NET: It’s been just over a month since the Olympics ended. How do you look back on your experience with the Czech team?

Spacek: I think we played so good, much better than we did in Nagano in 1998. It was just a little bad luck. The tournament comes down to one game in the quarter-finals and we lost 1-0 [to Russia] and we had 40 shots. As they say, if you do not score you cannot win. I’d say everybody was a little down after this. We had lots of chances and I’d say we played much better than Russia, but that’s hockey. People didn’t have a lot of bad things to say about us afterwards like with the Swedish guys! We put everything into that game and it just didn’t happen. Maybe we’ve won too many World Championship gold medals and finally the bad luck turned our way.

IHWC.NET: The World Championships are coming up in Sweden. Are you looking forward to going?

Spacek: Yeah. My coach called me from Czech a couple of days ago and he would like me to go. I would love to go and play for my country. Of course, we’ve got eight games left here and we’ve got to do our best. We’ll see after the season if I am healthy.

IHWC.NET: Every time you go over there, you seem to meet the Finns in the final. Would you like to play those guys again for the gold?

Spacek: [laughs] They see me in the lobby at the hotel and they think it’s going to be another Czech-Finland final, kind of tough for those guys! Really, we thought we’d beat the Russians in the Olympics, but we lost, so I think anything can happen in those games. The team will be different with new guys coming in. It’s a short tournament, different from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

IHWC.NET: What do you think of your new teammate here, Rostislav Klesla? Is he a guy who could fit in with the Worlds team?

Spacek: I’ve seen him in a couple of games. He’s a great player, great skater, great shot. But he’s still young. This is his first full year in the NHL, so I think he needs to learn a little bit more. He’s doing very well. We older guys need to help him improve his skills. Maybe by next year he’ll be the best defenseman on our team.

IHWC.NET: How do you like the style of international hockey compared to the NHL game?

Spacek: I haven’t been playing international hockey for that long, but you know, these are two different styles of hockey. Here, it’s more about fighting and the battles along the boards on the smaller rink. Back home, it’s more carrying the puck and never shooting it in. So I think there’s a huge difference. The players are maybe a little more skilled at home. On the bigger ice, you can see more talent than here, because everything’s working so much faster. But guys like our opponents today, [Markus] Naslund and [Todd] Bertuzzi, those guys are unbelievable on the small ice too. It’s tough to compare the two. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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