In the previous article about the Extraliga – Czech Republic – we had a look at the 2018-19 season with results, videos and insights. Right now instead, let’s have a chat with someone who knows the Extraliga and can help us understand what really happened.
We had the pleasure to talk to Anton Zelenko, hockey editor at “iDNES.cz”, one of the most read news websites in the Czech Republic. We asked him few questions to get to know more about the 2018-19 Extraliga.
What can you tell us about Oceláři Třinec, the Champions?
After last year’s loss in the final against Kometa Brno, Třinec managed to reach the final for a second consecutive year and this time they were finally the winners. Třinec, lead by the head coach Václav Varaďa, won its second Czech league title (the first was in 2011, with Varaďa still playing for the team). The new champion relied in the playoffs especially on the great work of goaltender Šimon Hrubec, who also wore the Czech national jersey during the season but unfortunately for Třinec decided to go abroad after this season. As other team stars we could mention the experienced sniper Martin Růžička (who was the playoffs’ leading scorer with 18 points in 17 games), another veteran Petr Vrána (who transferred to Třinec during the season from Sparta Praha and then won the first title in his career) and the young gun David Cienciala (who was traded to Mladá Boleslav after season’s end).
All in all, fans in Třinec don’t have to worry about the departures of their key players though. The team has a very solid financial background connected to the town steelworks (“Oceláři” means “Steelers”) and in the past few years it was always among the strongest teams in the league (this year Třinec finished tightly second at the end of regular season).
Which team was the surprise of the season?
The positive surprise was Olomouc. An average, almost invisible team with no general sponsor and with one of the worst arenas in the league made it comfortly to the playoffs again. What is more, Olomouc was really close to eliminate the favorites Plzeň (also known in English as “Pilsen”, city famous for beer) at the quarterfinals stage. But the outsiders, led by experienced leader Zbyněk Irgl, lost in game 7.
And the negative one? Definitely Pardubice. A traditional club, who has produced stars such as Dominik Hašek, Milan Hejduk, Aleš Hemský, Vladimír Martinec or last season’s Stanley Cup finalist Tomáš Nosek, has been struggling for a couple of years. After last year’s surprise when they lost at the quarterfinals stage against Třinec in 7 games, this season was a horror. The team ended deadly last and was close to be relegated from the Czech / Czechoslovakian top tier for the first time since 1950. But Pardubice won the relegation group in the post-season and remained in the extraliga.
Can you tell us, in your opinion, who were the three stars of the season?
I would name forwards Marek Kvapil and Milan Gulaš plus goaltender Patrik Bartošák.
Kvapil from Liberec was at the top of the leading scorers table almost all regular season. Moreover, he scored at least a point for 23 games in a row (that is, tied the 2nd best streak in the extraliga history!). But before the start of the playoffs, Gulaš tallied five (!) points more.
Therefore Gulaš, Plzeň’s forward, was the leading scorer both in terms of goals and points. Him and Jan Kovář have been the leaders of the team, which was one of the dark horses during playoffs. It was no surprise, anyway, that Gulaš won the award for the best player of the month two times this season (voted by editors of our newspaper).
Vítkovice goalie Bartošák on the other hand had a great season and because of that he’s one of two candidates to be Czech nr. 1 goalie for the upcoming World Championship. He had the best saving percentage of the league (93,3) and after Hrubec had moved from Třinec, Bartošák was announced his replacement for next season.
Which are the teams with the largest fan-base ?
Well, there are few candidates whose fans would consider themselves as the best ones. Fans of Kometa Brno are travelling to away games in great numbers. Plzeň fans on the other hand are famous for being very loud. In Pardubice instead, even though performances are poor, the stands are always packed with people regardless of the results. These three teams seem to have the most significant fan base.
Can you tell us some trivia about the 2018-19 Tipsport Extra Liga season?
That’s definitely the promotion of Kladno, the team of the owner – and after February also active forward – Jaromír Jágr. Kladno have been trying to come back to the Extraliga for five years and finally made it after Jágr and another star, Tomáš Plekanec, had come back to their hometown to help the team. The two veterans led the team to second place in the four-teams qualification group. Jágr still hasn’t decided if he’ll still be playing next season.
Thank you very much, Anton!
If you want to know more, especially about the Czech Extraliga, we warmly invite you to follow the website https://www.idnes.cz/sport.
Instead, if you want to read our 2018-19 Extraliga season review… well, here is the link!