Tag Archives: czech

Navigating Prague Modulo Language Skills

Needed to grab an Uber today as I’m recovering from some travel bug and didn’t want to be out in the rain for ten minutes waiting for the Prague city tram to get to the office. Fired up the app, got a driver assigned, went to the lobby to wait. I had entered the office address in the Uber app, but Prague addresses have a variety of slashes, vernacular annotations and other information that remind me more of disk formatting than street geography. To be safe, I told the driver “MSD Riverview, Smichov, Prague 5.”

“No English. Sorry.”

The smart play, of course, is to type what you want to say into Google Translate, then either have it spoken for you or attempt to further butcher the native tongue. Given that Czech has an accented r which is the love child of the Spanish teacher who rolled her Rs for 20 seconds and Crazy Ivan from “Red October” emphasizing his Cyrllic “X,” I always opt for help. Then again, the translation of “MSD Riverview” is reflective in any language. Google untranslate back to self.

Inspiration strikes – I know a landmark and know about six numbers in Czech.

“Pivovar Staropramen, dve ste meters (indicate straight through with karate chop motion)”. Rough translation: “Staropramen brewery, then 200 meters further on”.

Got it in one. It’s amazing how much you can pick up from reading the denominations on currency (I know 100, 200 and 500, as well as 1, 2 and 5 this way), and knowing a local landmark is always helpful.

So far this trip I’ve learned the words for “right” and “left”, “emergency” (not needed, I was wondering what a sign said that translates to “Beer Emergency!” and yes, this is a thing in Prague) and at least I understand there are seven declensions of nouns and verbs, none of which I will remember. Unless they are currency related.

Letter Perfect

Chalk it up to a lighter jersey, lifted of letters. Or maybe Patty was just told he can have fun again. Or maybe it was getting halfway to the 500 goal mark, or perhaps Dino set Elias up with some good calzone at lunch time today. I’m merely listening to the game 2,550 miles from the Rock, buried in a smelly office in California, and happy that nobody is still around to hear me running through the halls.

Elias scores in overtime, capping a night when he was on the ice for every one of the Devils’ four goals. Patty had two and assisted on a third. Jagshemash!

Elias nejlepsi, minus accents and pronunciation: Elias is the best. First star of the game, tonight at the Rock and always in our home.

Starting Simple

One of our youth hockey coaches likes to tell the kids to pick simple goals for each year: Don’t worry about the league playoffs, or Districts, or scoring 20 goals, but instead pick some simple things on which to build. Skating speed, slap shots, giving and receiving body checks, defensive positioning, thinking about first and second options with the puck are all simple things that can be improved from game to game, and measured over the course of a season.

I have no idea what transpired between the Penguin guano coating and last night’s Phantastic Philadelphia Phlogging, but it worked. Maybe it was the “get in shape” ride; maybe it was Sutter asserting that he’s in charge and half-efforts won’t be tolerated; maybe it was the re-emergence of Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White at the rink. The turning point in last night’s game was simple enough: After the first Flyers power play goal, the Devils stepped it up instead of shrinking back into dump and chase mode. On both of Zubrus’ goals, he was clogging up the middle, in front of the crease, rather than attempting creativity from behind the net. Simple things. The defense looked good, moving the puck out of the defensive zone and forcing traffic in front by getting shots toward the net. I’ll miss Olli and Big Bird-like defensive qualities, but I have to admit Rachunek gave me reason to wave my Czech flag a bit.

With the season just about at the one-fifth mark, there are many simple goals the Devils can set for the year. Making the playoffs should be first and foremost, most likely requiring 95 points to finish mid-conference. Doing so means tacking on 81 points from here, or about 1.2 points a game on average. That translates to roughly 35-21-11, technically close to 0.500 hockey if you count overtime losses and shoot out shoot downs the same as regulation dings. I’d love to see at least one line that terrifies opponents. Could be this congeals after Langenbrunner is back, could be that Madden and Pandolfo continue with some newly found help from the Lithuanian freight train. And finally, no further G-mez goals in the next six Hudson Summits.

I’m a week late with additional Rock thoughts, and why I’m shocked at the behavior of Toronto fan boys, but the real world, and work, intervened.

Winner, Eleven

Winner, eleven — that is, on the eleventh goal of last night’s Devils-Thrashers game (11 goals? In a Devils game?? Hello, Coach Sutter!). I was hoarse from yelling at the television and radio broadcasts but all’s well that ends well. In this case, there was ample material for holler-backs.

The Good: Elias gets his first goal, and nets two goals and a very pretty assist on Zajac’s tying goal. The Devils didn’t give up when they were down two goals, and after squandering single-goal leads. Strong, solid forecheck, including the last power play of the game which may have been the best I’ve seen in three seasons. The days of long-range bombing from the point, typically resulting in a blocked shot, a riccochet to start a short-handed attempt, or the puck clearing the attack zone, are over and done. Precise passing and shooting through open lanes. Tying all of the good together: Elias fires from the top of the slot, rebound comes to the right where he scoops it, fires back to Martin, who re-feeds Patrik for the game-winning goal. Puck control, skating hard to make time and space, and shooting through lanes rather than into shinpads.

The Interesting and Good: John Madden has re-emerged as a goal scorer. Not that he had ever lost the touch, but I think in previous seasons he was forced into a role of sheep-dogging the opponent’s top-line, over-watched center-pieces to the point where he was playing defense instead of pivot, with or with-out overt over-hyphenation for emphasis. I think my son puts it best: “Maddog is a hard worker.” When teenagers recognize work, you know it’s valuable and valued. When you go from two scoring lines to three, it’s a big deal for your opponents. Half of the Devils goals last night came from the Madden-Pandolfo combination.

The Bad: I always follow games through live caps at 2 Man Advantage because their photo editing captures the mood so perfectly. It’s like enjoying one of the old Monkees TV shows with the cutaway jokes to make a visual pun. Last night they challenged Brodeur to stop a beachball (but stopped short of suggesting he couldn’t make do with a pitchfork, both a Devilishly good utensil and the best for spearing wayward plastic). I’m not so sure it was Brodeur, more of the weak defense on the weak side (again) and a complete lack of attention to the wings on the weak side. A possible breaking point in the game came when Kovalchuk was left unmolested on the left side, with Dave Clarkson just behind the play. When the “D” is back, cutting down the shooting lanes, the wings have to fill in and take away the passing lanes. Nobody got between Kovalchuk and the puck from the cross-zone pass to the one-time that eluded Marty. Partly a rookie mistake, partly bad defense. If the Devils are going to play a more aggressive offensive game, then the natural by-product is that they’re going to have more goals scored against them — this goes both ways. But I’d much rather see the Devils win 6-5 than lose 2-1. Any day.

The Ugly: Bobby Holik. How his crease-crashing that resulted in Brodeur looking up at the Thrasher’s third goal was not a penalty escapes me. Why give the captain-C to a player with the loyalty of a cat and the leadership qualities of a high school locker room bully? To top it off, our brilliant TV commentators relayed a story that Elias and Holik had spoken when Holik was given the “C”, just as Patrik had his revoked, randomness rooted in their Czech heritage. Maybe if Elias races across the Hudson to pimp his contract, there will be some kind of similarity here, but then we’d have to talk about Gomez.

So we will: Elias has 4 points (2 G, 2A) and Gomez has half of that, only thanks to a miserable assist late in last night’s Senatorial smackdown. If Gomer was on his way to 63 helpers, he should have quadrupled his output. Personally, I think the relative economics lesson here is that there’s half a Gome$$ separating the two. Double oof.

Devils Power Player Application

I’ll admit it: I like dressing up as a mascot. I’ve been Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus and on two occasions, an Arabian dancer (don’t ask) at various times in an assortment of ice rinks, office buildings and downtown Manhattan subway stations. I am also a rather loud fan, as anyone who has been within a nautical mile of me at a game can attest. I like to cheer. I like to make sing-song phrases in French and Czech, perhaps picking on Martin St. Louis a bit too much and a bit too loudly. I once had someone at the Meadowlands ask me to cheer more quietly, so I switched to more colorful language. In Russian. There were kids present.

What if I cleaned up my act, put on some new skates, and tried to do this for real? Like as a member of the Devils Fan Interactive Team, also known as the Devils Power Players? It would rank up there with my dream jobs of being Stanley C. Panther (the Florida Panther mascot) or SJ Sharkey (in San Jose). So tonight inspiration struck: I’m filling out an application to be a Devils Power Player. Seriously. So what if I’m 45, grey, slightly snowman shaped, and can only list “doing the Hustle in 8th grade” as my previous dance experience? I’m an insane Devils fan. I know hockey. I can skate. I love to make people, especially kids, laugh. I want to see people come to the Rock, and if they come to see what the fat old guy is going to do next, sign me up. Please.

Here’s what my application says:

I have been a Devils fan since thee 1999-2000 season, when my son began to play hockey and we bought into a group of season ticket holders to begin enjoying games together. Since then, we have attended approximately 100 games and developed our own rituals for “game day” involving our jerseys, t-shirts, what food we eat, and when we take bathroom breaks. Part of being a father (and an uncle) has been enjoying my children and my siblings’, cousins’, and friends’ children as they’ve grown up, and I’ve constantly delighted in ways to make them laugh. Few things are as fun for me as mixing sports and family, and I believe that combination is the root of building a strong current and future fan base for the Devils. Today’s fans who are school aged will be the equivalent of my peers who grew up on a steady diet of NY Rangers hockey and remain “blue fans” to this day. I want them to live, breathe and eat Devils red and black, and it starts with making strong memories for them of their experience with the things they can see, touch and hear up close: Power Players, cheers, the mascot, and a game experience that they can’t wait to repeat.
Hearing a young child squeal as he or she gets to play with Frosty the Snowman, or having a co-worker’s child hop on my Santa-colored lap and tell me something they’ve not told their parents (and then relaying the message, so that Christmas is really a miracle for that kid), are some of the best moments I can recall. On the less serious but more creative side, I’ve had signs I’ve made show up on CN8 and ESPN; I’ve thrown a rubber chicken into the ESPN court-side shot (at a March madness game); I’ve hollered cheers with math phrases, Russian, Czech and French in poorly pronounced rhyme. We’ve printed up “Happy Birthday Patrik” signs in Czech, and last year I managed to convince a friend to come to his first game in 3 years; a long-time fan was re-born.
I want to once again combine sports, cheering, creativity and a bit of ice skating as a New Jersey Devils Power Player. I’m not your typical cheerleader: I’m 45, graying, a bit overweight, but in good physical condition. I make up for that with enthusiasm, love of the NJ Devils, and the ability to create lasting impressions with people that will make them want to come back to see what happens next. I want to feel The Rock shake; I want to see what happens when the house is sold out and so loud that the visiting coach can’t hear his own players swearing on the ice.
I would love to be N.J. Devil, the team mascot, even for a game or a local event. It’s the next logical step after the big man in red and the round guy in white. I’d be thrilled to be a Power Player; if not for the whole season then as an experiment. I’d blog about it; which is sure to generate interest if not genuine attention and attendance. I’d share my entire experience, and provide a view into what life is like as a die-hard fan, much as I do in my public blog. I offer the Devils organization a chance to reach fans of my age and my childrens’ ages; to show that the Devils can have fun and not take themselves too seriously (this isn’t the NFL, it’s hockey!); and to remind everyone why it’s better to be there in person, where you might see someone who looks like the guy who fixes your computer leading a cheer in Section 8.

I’m not hopeful that I’ll hear back, but if someone reads my application and gets a laugh, who knows?

Elias Head, Hands and Feet

Minor props to Santana in the title: if you haven’t listened to “Head, Hands and Feet” off of the Moonflower live album (ok, CD), you should.

Elias using his feet, me using my head (to yell): Was out of the country for the last week and didn’t want to miss any broadcasts, so I picked them up off of nhl.com using the streaming audio of the WFAN 660 AM broadcast. Given that I was in a locale where finding an ice machine was tough, let alone an ice rink, it was pretty cool. But when Elias blocked a rocket shot off of his foot and left the game, my howls could be heard back in jersey. Ouch. One game and six minutes of rest, and he’s back to full strength. He was definitely missed during the most recent Atlanta game.

Elias using his hands, me using my feet: Two assists and a goal in tonight’s Capitals game, with one of the assists a pretty give-and-go to Gomez that was wikipedia-quality definition of “soft hands.” I had to race from my perch in the kitchen to the foot of the stairs to holler up to Bubba to catch the replay. Such is life when the Devils are playing and we’re in our own house.

Elias using his head, me using my hands (to cheer): After every goal, he’s first in to glove tap, congratulate, say mokrat dekuji, or smile. Lots of smiles and good words from the captain. Whatever early season jitters Elias had wearing the “C” have gotten the hook, and he’s leading by being himself — funny, talktative, immersed in hockey.

Whoever says the Devils are boring is watching the wrong team, or at least the wrong players.

Study In Contrast

Study in Pennsylvania contrast: Sidney Crosby has 10 points in his last two games. Two goals on two shots, and a snowman worth of assists. It’s one thing to notch an assist from a shot that gets redirected, quite another to make the laser-like, tape to tape passes that seem to be a staple of Sid the Kid. Last night’s behind the back bounce pass off the boards, resulting in a backhand flip to Ryan Malone in front, was highlight reel material this morning. Life is good for the #1 draft pick.

Then there’s Petr Nedved. A pair of shots, one goal, and a low yo (that would be -11 to mash most appropriate craps and plus/minus ratings) in ten games. Nedved was waived for the second time this season by the Flyers, and after clearing waivers he ended up back with the Phantoms in the AHL. In a way, I feel for the guy — he’s lost his glamorous wife (Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated model Veronika Varekova) and his glamorous job in the same year. A winter of discontent, indeed. Life sucks for the #2 draft pick. Nedved was chosen second in the 1990 draft, ahead of another Czech guy named Jagr taken 5th by the Penguins in the and Martin Brodeur, chosen 20th by the Devils.

Rather Be In Philadelphia

All due credit to WC Fields, he’d rather be in Philadelphia (as opposed to his final resting place), and I believe most teams in the NHL feel that with the Flyers looking one step out of the grave, they’d rather be visting in Philadelphia as well. So it goes for the Devils tonight, as they venture down the Turnpike, somewhat pumped up (we hope) by a solid 5-2 win over the other half of Pennsylvania’s hockey contingent last night.

What a great game for those of us who were actually there. Never mind the announced attendance of over 13,000; there were probably 8,000 fans in seats. Almost 80% of Section 101, the prime season ticket holder real estate behind the net, was empty. We personally experienced the parking garage last night, and it was somewhere between a visit to the dentist and renewing your license in person at the DMV in degree of difficulty. $12 to be forced to drive up three levels, with way too few stairwells to funnel a happy crowd back after the game? The time is definitely right for a new arena. I’ve had this conversation with Tom Lycan, author of the Star-Ledger’s Devils Due blog, and he captured my thoughts on the new arena pretty succinctly.

Whether you watched from behind the glass of the stands or the glass on your TV, what you saw last night was good puck movement down low, a great reduction in shots from the point that went into a mass of defensive bodies, and one “C”zech guy having a good time. It appears that nearly the whole team got the morning off for good behavior last night, as only Jay Pandolfo worked out seriously during the morning skate at South Mountain. Not a bad way to start the new hockey month.

Lucky Is As Lucky Does

Two and a half hours to puck drop. An hour until we leave for the great swamp. I’m pulling out all of the stops, all of the swag, everything I can think of, do, or conjure up to send luck to the boys in red and black tonight. We’ll be there in person, look for us to the right of Brodeur, about one section over and 6 rows back of the net. We’re the ones asking the goal judge to only hit the magic red button during the second period (when the Devils are shooting toward us).

Pre-game lucky checklist:

T-Shirt: Czech. Pun intended. The proper undergarment is the foundation upon which all luck builds. Although I’m going to riffle through the Minnesota, North Dakota, and Team USA hockey shirts, just to send a little reiki energy to Mssrs Langenbrunner, Parise, Martin, Gomez and Gionta.

Sneakers: NikeID Frees, in red and black. I don’t care if it drizzles and my feet swim home, as long as we’re singing happily in the rain.

Cheer gear: Czech (flag). A small remainder from the 2003 playoffs. It has been waved, moved, furled, unfurled, lost, found, and stored in a mojo-protected energy-sealed area for three years. As Rafiki would say, “It is time.”

Chair of power: Power creates slapshots. Slapshots break sticks. Broken sticks make a nice Adirondack chair. I sit, and contemplate my navel, then discover it’s gotten harder to get up. Must lay off of the Little League snack bar treats.

Evil Eye Avoidance: Hockey News cover shot of Elias and Klee is turned over, avoiding all ken-klee-a-horas.

Sharpie Kingdom: Scribed goodies from Pandolfo, Gionta, Gomez, Langenbrunner, Parise and Madden, neatly arranged around the Adirondack chair of power. Or something like that. I touch them like hockey mezuzot and hope I don’t get hit by lightning for such thoughts.

Food: The official Meadowlands dinner of chicken fingers, french fries, and soda, washed down with ice cream and a pretzel. It’s 38 steps from our seats to the concourse, so we’re getting some minimal exercise to balance out the calories.

Jersey: 1999 vintage Koho Devils red jersey, washed so many times the embroidery is starting to warp and pucker. As long as it fits after the required lucky eating regimen, I’m wearing it.

As I go in search of socks, I check out the Madden signed page from ESPN: The Magazine and realize it’s a picture of Mad Dog chipping away at the Carolina goalie, in a game the Devils won. At home. Hugely coincidental. Hugely prognostic. I’m not turning away any reasonable semblance of luck or good feelings right now. The word “fan” is a diminutive of the more SAT-caliber “fanatic”. How appropriate.

Pure Six, Elias Nejlepsi

Game one commentary, literally, “Elias is the best”. At least the number 1 star of the game, for being part of every one of the Devils’ six goals today. Six points – two by Mr. Czech Republic (Elias, not Jagr, dear readers), and four assists. The Devils even got their snowman (Ken Klee) on the scoresheet today.

It’s only one game, and it was an ugly game in terms of penalties, but hello, Broadway? Discipline? Defense? Taking away the passing lanes? I’m loving this. And I’m only on lucky t-shirt number 1, with a whole shelf ready to go if necessary.

Jagr’s injury pretty much sums things up — he’s out on the penalty kill and takes a cheap shot at Gomez. And misses. And hurts himself. I will admit to enjoying a bit of schaudenfraude as much as the next puckhead, and while I hate to see players get hurt for any reason, this was just plain dumb.