Novotny wants WM no. 8
Novotny wants WM no. 8
Q&A with multiple World Championship medallist
Jiri Novotny’s next goal is to be a part of the Czech team in Prague this May.
Some might think that after that many games with the national team, it’s not fun anymore for Jiri Novotny to play for his country, but nothing could be further from the truth. The 31-year-old forward, who was the captain of the Czech team at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, still has the desire to play. That's especially the case this season, with the tournament taking place in his homeland.
With less than two months remaining the World Championship is fast approaching. Some players say they don't think about it and are only focused on the season with their clubs, but what about you?
Of course I think about the World Championship. Playing in the tournament in your home country? Who wouldn’t look forward to that? I really want to play in my eighth championship, and as a Czech, playing in Prague is the best situation I could imagine.
As you say, if you play this May it would be your eighth World Championship. You also played twice each at the U18 and U20 World Championships. What are your memories of those beginnings?
I have really fond memories of them, because those tournaments were the very first ones that I played in. They were still the junior categories, so there wasn't as much pressure on us from back home. I played my first senior championship in 2007 in Moscow, when Alois Hadamczik was the coach. That was quite a long time ago. I’m not exactly the youngest player anymore, so we’ll see what happens this season. Maybe it’ll be my last championship this year but, if I play in Prague, it would be the peak moment of my career, together with the Olympics.
As an experienced player, who's played a lot of big games in a lot of tournaments and leagues in different countries, do you collect things, like pucks, from the places you play?
When I played in the NHL, I got one special puck after my first game there. And I also have pucks from all the World Championships I've played in. I always get an official one.
Where do you keep them?
I finished building my house recently, so I have all my pucks and jerseys there. As I've played many games for the national team, including the retro ones, I have jerseys from those special games too. I also have jerseys of both NHL teams I played for (Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets). My wife collected them for me. And now I finally have a special place at home for all the stuff.
Do you have all your medals there too?
Yes, they're hanging there too. The most valuable is the gold from Germany in 2010. They're all really beautiful, but gold is gold. To win all those big games in a row, you also need luck and we had that at the championship in Germany.
Do you remember your first game with the national team and your first goal?
Well... I think I was around 18 years old and played for Ceske Budejovice at that time – Augusta and Martinec were the coaches of the national team. I scored my first goal in a game against Switzerland, which was like 14 years ago. That’s an awfully long time, isn’t it? Then I had a short break from the national team because I played overseas, so I returned to the national team in 2007 when I played in the World Championship in Moscow.
We've talked about the success you've had with the national team, but at the club level you've never won a title. Obviously that must be a disappointment for you.
It is quite disappointing. We were so close last season with Lev Prague in the KHL. I had never been closer to a title in my career before. We lost the final series in the seventh game, so it was a big disappointment. I still think about it, how close we were. But as I said, sometimes you need little bit of luck and we didn’t have it in the seventh game last season. At the same time, I’m not too old yet. Time is passing by quickly, but I still have some left. Right now I'm playing for a great team so we’ll see what happens in the playoffs.
Before the season you signed a two-year contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and, at least according to your statistics, you’re doing quite well. But what about your normal life there?
I’m really satisfied. I was quite surprised that the city is so beautiful. Compared to Moscow, in Yaroslavl there are no traffic jams, so I really appreciate that. I have everything I need there to play hockey. The club's provided me with a great flat and car, we also have a beautiful arena and a great team, as well as club management. But my first feelings when I arrived there were quite weird because, except for Martin Thornberg, I didn't know anyone there; just a few faces from the international scene.
You're also the only Czech on the team. You're known for often joking with your Czech pals, so that must have been quite an adjustment for you.
You’re right, it wasn’t really a pleasant situation at first, but now I can speak more Russian than before, so it’s much easier now. It’s the first time in my carrier that I’m the only Czech player on the team. Even in the NHL and AHL, and then here in Europe in the KHL, I always had some Czech teammates, but not in Yaroslavl.
In late November, Lokomotiv acquired Petri Kontiola and Andrei Loktionov. As a result, you were moved from the first line to the third.
That’s true, but although I was moved to the third line, my ice time was still the same. I played maybe even more, because I was on the ice with the first line during power plays and also on the first penalty-killing unit. So nothing really changed, just before the playoffs there were few moves in the line-up. But anyway, we have three good lines so we don’t have to worry about who's on the first line and who's on the second and third.
Back to the national team. Which from your seven World Championships is your favourite? I don’t mean it from the results point of view, but according to atmosphere, facilities, fans, etc.
Of course I like the one in Germany in 2010 the most, but another one that was really great – not only for me, but other guys have also said so – was the one the next year in Bratislava. It was really close to the Czech Republic, so we almost felt like at home. There were lots of Czech fans at the arena, and it was always a full house. It was incredible. Overall it was a pretty successful tournament – we had an unbelievably great team. We didn't lose a game until the semi-final against Sweden, which was a shame, but then we took bronze medal by beating Russia. I think it was like 7–3 win for us. But we should have won it all.
When you talk about the loss with Sweden, was it the most painful defeat you’ve ever experienced?
I’d say so, yes. To be eliminated in the quarter-finals isn’t very nice, either, but it's worse to lose in the semis. Well, when I think about it, the loss to Slovakia in the 2012 semi-final isn’t something I want to experience again either.
Back to Overview