Ice hockey is a sport that has brought the Czech Republic fame on an international stage while giving birth to several athletic greats who have cemented the country’s reputation as a hockey superpower.
The sport itself is so revered that it has even made its way into the Czech language – when you want to express confusion to a Czech simply say Mám v tom hokej (literally “I have hockey in it” or “it makes no sense to me”).
Did you know that ice hockey is so popular in the Czech Republic that there’s actually an entire week devoted to introducing one of the nation’s most cherished sports to future stars of the game?
Kicking off on January 22, last year’s Hockey Week (Týden hokeje) introduced the basics to more than 6,000 children aged four to eight years.
This year the event, happening in over 130 locations throughout the country, runs through January 28. Prague sessions take place later this week; see here for a full list of locations and registration details.
This month also sees the opening of exhibits devoted to the sport in Prague and beyond.
“War with Sticks or the Origins of Ice Hockey in the Usti region,” at the regional museum in Žatec chronicles the fascinating rise of amateur hockey leagues on the village ponds of the Czech-German borderlands during World War II.
The years following the war would be turbulent ones for the game; a plane crash in 1949 killed six national team members, and in 1950 several players were imprisoned under bogus accusations of espionage against the Communist regime.
But the sport has also seen tremendous highs which include the winning of several world championships spanning five decades, and the ultimate victory, a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
These modern milestones are being celebrated with an interactive new exhibit at the Grévin Museum in Prague, “The Golden Age of Czech Ice Hockey” featuring some of the greatest Czech players of the modern era.
The exhibit isn’t just focused on wax figures – it will also display a large archive of previously unpublished photos from photojournalist Jiří Koliš, collectors’ items, and fascinating facts about the early days of the sport (when frozen frogs were sometimes used in place of pucks!).
Interactive games let visitors attempt to face off against their hockey heroes.
Organizers say the exhibit commemorates the 20th anniversary, this February, of the Czech ice hockey team’s phenomenal success at Nagano.