I love European hockey, it’s clearly no secret. Although it will never top the home sweet home of Canada and our passionate game, Europe and their leagues are following close behind. Here’s the thing, I know barely anything about the leagues aside from the EIHL and KHL and a bit of SM-Liiga. So when Jon Rowson approached me about his passion for the Czech Extraliga, I jumped at the chance to expand my hockey knowledge. Rowson is also the current English website manager for HC Slovan Bratislava of the KHL.
He took the time to talk to me about both leagues and the effect of last season’s NHL lockout.
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?
Jon Rowson: Well I was born and raised in a town just outside of Birmingham, England, although this summer I’m calling Prague, Czech Republic home. It was actually my father who got me into hockey. He tells me that he took me to a game at the old Solihull Blaze rink back in the late 90s when I was very young, but apparently I hated it and so we left mid-way through the game! However, the Blaze then relocated to Coventry, and I was taken to a few games and I grew to love the game. I can still remember being there when the Blaze defeated the Dundee Stars in the 2003 British National League playoff final. Very hazy memories of course, but still, I remember all the streamers and confetti falling from the top of the stand!
MH: Why are you so passionate about the Czech Extraliga and in your opinion, what makes the league a superior one?
JR: When I was younger, my father did a lot of work in the Czech Republic, and he would often schedule his trips in time with my school holidays, meaning that from an early age I would end up in either the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Of course, we would also try and fit it in with the hockey schedule, and back in 2006 I went to my first Czech Extraliga game. None other than the Prague derby between Slavia and Sparta at the then Sazka Arena (now o2 Arena). Cue my surprise as a fourteen year old kid who had only been to EIHL games before that, seeing a massive crowd of over 10,000, riot police bringing in the Sparta fans, and also the whole atmosphere was just crazy. I had never experienced two sets of fans singing for the whole sixty minutes. From that day I began to love everything about Extraliga hockey.
While the fan culture is a massive part, and I’ve met some fantastic people through it, I also find that it is incredibly fun to watch. At present I work for a KHL club on their website, which has meant that I have watched a lot of KHL hockey over the past two years, and if I’m honest, I find it incredibly defensive minded and rather dull, even when I’m watching a team I support. The Extraliga is an incredibly offensive minded league, and I don’t think any of the fourteen teams understands what a neutral zone trap is. The players shoot at will, and I just find it by far the most entertaining league in the world to watch. I’ve also noticed that players seem to play the game with a real love for the sport. I love to see players really celebrate after scoring a goal like it means something to them. I hate it when guys score a goal don’t smile or show some sort of happiness at scoring. You don’t get that in the Extraliga. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Jon Rowson and the Czech Extraliga”