The generation game
The generation game
Slovakia's two Ostrava rookies, 11 years apart
For a young hockey hopeful, few things are as inspiring as getting to see the best in the world up close and in person.
That’s one of the great thrills of the World Championship, bringing top class hockey to different parts of the world and opening up the sport to a new generation of fans and players.
If it sounds like hype, just ask Slovakia’s rookie defenceman Adam Janosik. The 22-year-old was still a child last time the Worlds came to Ostrava in 2004, and along with his Dad he travelled to cheer on his country. Now, 11 years later, the HC Kosice prospect is back – and this time he’s suiting up for his country in his first major international competition.
“I'm really enjoying it, I'm glad to be here and trying to do my best,” the former Gatineau Olympiques youngster said. “Of course I'm learning a lot, we've got some great players here. They've got a lot of experience and I'm getting a lot from that.”
It’s fitting that he’s making his senior World Championship bow here, in the arena where he first saw top level international hockey in the raw and even if some of those childhood memories are a bit of a blur – but one of his team-mates in the 2015 edition stands out.
“I was so young that at the time I didn't really recognize what a great defence we had in that competition,” Janosik said. “I was just enjoying the whole experience, watching some great hockey.
“But I do remember that Dominik Granak was playing in his first World Championship that year. I was watching him because he’s a smaller guy like me and I wanted to copy the things he was doing on the ice.”Continue reading
Now Granak is a senior figure on the Slovak roster and is hoping to pay forward the debt he owes the colleagues who helped him develop his game back in 2004.
“It’s interesting being back here as a leader on this team,” the 31-year-old veteran of nine World Championships said. “Like everything in life as you get older you gain experience and mature a little bit. It’s like a natural cycle and I’m really happy that I can come back here and maybe help our younger players like the older guys helped me in 04.”
Granak was part of a stellar Slovak team that had an almost unbreakable defence. Backstopped by Jan Lasak, in nine games it conceded just nine goals, with four shut-outs and a further 0-0 tie with team USA in the bronze medal game that ended in a heart-breaking shoot-out loss.
“That was a really strong generation of Slovak hockey players,” Granak recalled. “It was great fun to be part of and actually it seemed to be pretty easy at that time to come into a team as strong as that one. We had so many leaders back then, it was great to be on that team.
“Being a defenceman it was all about Zdeno Chara. Of course he's totally different compared to me, he's such a big guy, but he's 100% professional all the time and that was something I looked up to when I joined the team.”
Like Janosik, Granak has fond memories of the 2004 tournament, and he well understands the excitement of pulling on his country’s jersey for the first time in a major competition. “It was my first World Championship, I was just 20 years old and the year before I was still playing junior hockey,” he said. “Suddenly I found myself in this team full of stars and it was great. We had some really good results, especially here in Ostrava. The only thing missing was that we just came up short for a medal.”
Slovakia’s class of 2015 might have some ground to make up on the heroes of 2004... but whatever the team’s results here, who can say there won’t be another bright young player among the thousands of fans who have come across the border to cheer for their country, just like Janosik did 11 years ago?
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