Boys Hockey Travels to Czech Republic & Slovakia

Members of the boys hockey team and coaching staff enjoyed a team trip of service, culture and hockey over winter break to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.  The players recounted their experiences while on the trip through daily blog posts.  Learn more about their travels by reading below.

Blog Post #9 – 1/5/2020
Bratislava, SK and Deerfield, MA

Our final eight plus hour plane ride home gave everyone the time to reflect on the trip as a whole. We thought back on all the memories that brought us closer together, such as New Year’s Eve, countless meals, and the waterpark. Not only did we get to spend time playing hockey with the team over this break, we also got to experience some astonishing cities and locations that have a great deal of history behind them. Touring Auschwitz was definitely an emotional and meaningful experience, and being able to experience this historic site with all 24 members of the team was special. Auschwitz is just one example of the many different ways the team got closer over this break. By experiencing foreign cities and historic sites with the team, it made it a more memorable and enjoyable experience for all. We grew together as a team, spending 9 full days together where we were never separated for more than a few minutes. As a result our team grew closer together and created memories none of us will forget in our lifetimes. There were the obvious highlights to the trip and the memorable places we visited, but some of the best times were bonding together on the bus or over potatoes and meat at dinner, or hanging out with each other in our hotel rooms, not to mention playing in world class arenas. The boys are extremely thankful to everyone who made the trip possible. Going to Europe with 23 of your best friends is a privilege that very few people in the world get to experience and we are all so grateful.

-Alex Robert ’20, Keith Davenport ’20, Eamon Doheny ’20, Connor Guest ‘20

Blog Post #8 – 1/4/2020
Bratislava, SK

The fellas woke up bright and early on our last full day of the trip for a 7 A.M skate. We walked about 10 minutes from our hotel to the home stadium of the HC Slovan team at 6:15 A.M. Once on the ice of the beautiful new stadium in Bratislava, we were led by the head coach of the HC Slovan team. This coach ran a great skate for us, knowing that we had a big game later that night. The practice included lots of flow drills, and games that woke the boys up in the morning. After practice, former NHL star and current President of the Slovakian Hockey Association, Miroslav Satan spoke to us about the future of Slovakian hockey as well as the evolution of the game and its players. Following the practice, we returned to the hotel, and got ready to tour Bratislava.

We boarded the Bratislava public transport trains with our two tour guides, and headed to our first stop, the Bratislava castle. The castle was the biggest of the castles we had seen on the trip, and the attention to detail the castle inhibited was amazing. The castle was perched upon a hill in Bratislava, and the views from the castle were memorable. Next, we went to a church in Bratislava, and viewed the inside and outside of the church. Following the church, we headed to the center square of Bratislava to get something to eat. Each player was given some money to go out to eat in the town square, and all of the players chose a local restaurant to go to get something to eat. The square was one of the most beautiful places we had seen on the trip, and it proved how beautiful the European city of Bratislava was. After lunch in the town square, we headed back to the hotel to go to the game.

We arrived at the rink by means of the public bus. This time we would be playing at the practice rink, instead of the stadium. We all gathered in the locker room and conducted our own personal warmups. We got dressed and headed out to the ice. This rink, although smaller, was way more crowded. Many Slovak locals lined the glass of the rink and it felt a lot like a Deerfield home game. The American and Slovak flags were exhibited over our net, and before the game we listened to both national anthems as we stood on the blue line. The first period was lackadaisical for Deerfield, and we exited the period trailing 1-0, with some key saves made by Justin Prete ’20. After some reflection in the locker room, the team came out with way more energy in the second and third periods. Jake Higgins ’20 tied the game 1-1 late in the second, and then Kyle Jarosz ’20 tallied the winner midway through the third. As customary for this trip, we also conducted a 5 man shootout where goaltender Justin Katz ’23 had some great saves, including a seemingly effortless poke check on the penultimate shot. But, the icing on the cake was the top shelf finish by sophomore John Bloomer ’22. After the game, the USA ambassador to Slovakia came in the locker room to talk to us. This was a very fascinating experience that consisted of her talking about what she does and how happy she is that we were in Slovakia.

After celebrating this great win, the boys made their way back to the hotel where we relaxed in the hotel spa. This spa visit consisted of making trips from the ice bath to recover and the hot tub to defrost our bodies. Following the spa, we made the 20 minute walk to a local Bratislava restaurant for the concluding meal. There, we met many of our parents that joined us on the trip and a local boy named Erik with his family. The dinner consisted of a buffet of traditional Slovakian food. When the meal concluded, the coaches made closing remarks and thanked the people that made the trip special. Once the coaches were done speaking, the players talked about how they felt about the trip. Many players thanked the coaches and their fellow teammates for making it an unforgettable experience. Players also shared their favorite parts of the trip and why these experiences were important to them. The evening finished with all 23 players linking arms and singing the Deerfield evensong for the coaches and parents. Singing the evensong with 23 of your teammates was a fantastic way to close out the trip.

-Kyle Jarosz ‘20, Alton Machen ’20, Justin Prete ’20

Blog Post #7 – 1/3/2020
Trencin, SK and Bratislava, SK

Another early morning for the boys with the same wake up time and practice time as yesterday. After tossing back some poached eggs and yogurt at the hotel, we were fortunate to have guest coaches from the Dukla Trencin Junior team helping for the first half of our practices. They ran us through some new drills and it was a great learning experience to be coached by these guys. The remainder of practice had some special teams and a small area game to close it out before being able to check out the Dukla Trencin team store and the Trencin Hockey Hall of Fame. This room had many jerseys and other pieces of equipment from local heroes and role models such as: Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa and many more.

After regrouping at the hotel and fueling up with another lunch at the MG Arena, the boys put on our walking shoes to take on the massive hill that would lead us to the Trencin Castle. It may have consisted of a couple thousand steps through the fog, but everyone eventually made it up to the castle to start our 12:30 tour. We joined up with parents and families, and our tour guide began to take us up many more steps until we were inside the castle itself. We had the opportunity to check out many artifacts found in the excavation of the castle and even some remains of human bodies. Our tour guide showed us inside a few bedrooms and the basement before taking us up to the tower.

Steep, narrow, and claustrophobic are a few words that come to mind to describe the journey up to the top of the tower. After a series of cramped stairwells we finally emerged to the ice-covered balcony at the top of the tower. Unfortunately, thick fog had rolled in that morning which prevented us from enjoying the supposedly breathtaking views of Trencin. Nonetheless, we could still somewhat see the tops of a few buildings in the city center far below. After about 10 minutes of peering out into the castle’s surroundings we decided to make our way back down. The walk to the top of the tower was tough, but the trek down was daunting. So, after 5 minutes of diligent descending we returned to the courtyard of the castle and prepared to head back to the hotel.

Later that night we took the ice for our second game against the Trencin junior team. Inspired by pre-game speeches from NHL legends (and Trencin natives) Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa, we came out fast and jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the time the buzzer for the first period rang. Unfortunately, the second period wasn’t the same. Although the effort was still apparent, a lack of cohesion within the team led to us giving up the only goal of the period and being dominated for most of it. The third period started off on the same note with Trencin potting one quickly on the power play. That was the wakeup call the boys needed as there was a clear improvement in the play as the period went on. Multiple powerplays brought back some much needed momentum to the boys and with just under 2 minutes remaining in the period Alton Machen ‘20 found the back of the net on the powerplay for his second goal of the game. Yes, it wasn’t a pretty game, but the boys were resilient and showcased that all-important ability to find a way to win. After two terrific days in Trencin, we are ready to take on our next adventure (and opponent) in Bratislava.

– Jarod Harrington ’20 & Jake Higgins ’20

Blog Post #6 – 1/2/2020
Trencin, SK

The boys had an early morning, meeting for breakfast at 7:15 and heading over for an early practice that focused on special teams. After a good hour of work, the team had the chance to watch the Dukla A team practice and then regrouped at the hotel.

After lunch, we headed over to the Elizabeth Hotel to start our tour of Trencin. We started by learning about the history of the city and who settled in the area first, which was over a 2500 years ago. We walked through the town square beneath a large castle that loomed over the town. Engraved in the cliff under the castle was an inscription from the Romans in the second century. We then visited Saint Francis Xavier Church, which was constructed in the early 1600s. The church featured some beautiful art work and sculptures. After learning about the history of the church, we took a short walk through the monastery and then to a beautiful synagogue, which contained the names of over 1200 (in a Jewish community of approximately 1600) murdered in the Holocaust.  We learned that only 60 Jewish members remain in Trencin today.

At 5:00PM, we had our first game in Slovakia. After realizing that warmups started promptly at 4:30PM, the team hustled to get out there, only missing half the pre-game skate. We came out a little slow and took a lot of penalties quickly, hurting our offense for the first period. Coming out for the second period down one goal, we looked rejuvenated and quickly put up two goals. The rest of the game was back and forth, with neither team garnering much zone time. Connor Guest ‘20 scored four goals (one short-handed, one even strength, one on the power play, and an empty net for good measure!). The boys are feeling hot after our first win in Europe and are looking forward to keeping the momentum going into tomorrow.

-Sam Mackenzie ’21, Kyle Patton ’21, Ben Zimmerman ‘21

Blog Post #5 – 1/1/2020
Trinec, CZ and Trencin, SK

The day began with the unfortunate realization that our bus was running late. To pass some time, we played football and soccer in the town square, just outside our hotel. It was a great bonding experience for all of us. Eventually, the bus driver showed up and we were off to Slovakia. The Slovakian scenery was second to none, the nature surrounding us was beautiful. Towards the end of the bus ride, we stopped at a gas station and tried some of the local snacks and beverages. “The Gatorade taste much different here,” Justin Katz ’23 noted after taking a big gulp. After arriving at the Marian Gaborik hotel in Trencin, the team set off for an evening practice in the Pavol Demitra Arena. We were given first-class treatment with a very impressive locker room and hospitality. The team agreed that the rink was one of the coolest that we had skated in, and the quality of the ice was unmatched. After a hard-working practice the boys returned to the hotel for dinner and to watch some of the Winter Classic. At around 9pm we retired to our rooms for some much-needed rest.

-Tyler Mudd ’21, Pierce Patterson ’21

Blog Post #4 – 12/31/2019
Trinec, CZ and Auschwitz-Birkenau, PL

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  – George Santayana

After an 8:15 am wake up in Ostrava, the team boarded the bus for Auschwitz just before 9:30 and attempted to finish the film Schindler’s List prior to our arrival. At Auschwitz, we noticed the diversity of tourists who had traveled from across the globe for the experience much like ourselves. Stepping off the bus, we were immediately struck by the intense aura of emotion that lingered over the infamous site. We met our tour guide at the main gate of Auschwitz-I (there were four main camps and over forty sub-camps). We took part in a two-hour tour through Auschwitz as each exhibit displayed a different aspect that furthered our understanding of the severity and extent of the Holocaust, the largest genocide in the history of mankind. As we made our way through cells for prisoners, gas chambers, crematories, one room with pieces of hair cut off of the murdered Jewish people, another for items such as luggage, shoes, and combs, we attempted to come to terms with the true horrors on display with each turn; some were shocked while others cried. After the first half of the tour at Auschwitz I, we took a quick bus ride to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp which was seven times the size of Auschwitz I. We walked the same steps that all of the arriving prisoners would have taken upon their arrival to the camp and after “the selection” process. We learned that this process determined each prisoner’s fate, brutal conditions in the concentration camp or immediate death, all at the point of a single merciless finger. We visited the memorial of the survivors located on the camp, walked through a barrack named “the Death Barrack” intended for those prisoners unfit for labor, and concluded our visit to Auschwitz with a climb up to the lookout tower. We were able to see a large portion of the camp from this view, a true testament to its vastness and grand scale.

That evening at dinner, Mr. Flaska, Mr. Lyons, Mr. McVaugh, and Mr. Philie led the team in a discussion reflecting upon our experience at Auschwitz. Although we had learned of the Holocaust in history books and documentaries, the intimacy and reality of the concentration camp in person was something that few of us had experienced in our lifetimes. It was an important conversation to have as team members alluded to a range of emotions such as grief, frustration, anger, and confusion.

After the discussion, the team walked over to Werk Arena in Trinec to watch Team Finland and Team Switzerland play. Although the game did not have the energy of the Czech vs USA game we were so lucky to see, all the boys had a great time watching fantastic hockey and dancing on the jumbotron. Switzerland upset Team Finland 4-2, setting up a USA vs Finland quarterfinal game that the team will be excited to watch!  After seeing such a massive complex dedicated to mass murder and dehumanization in the morning, we felt so fortunate to enjoy  this game, this trip, and our time together.

New Year’s Eve in Ostrava was a night to remember. The team headed down to the town square where, with our help, the DJ kept the party rocking. We danced, we sang, we laughed, and we cried as we headed back to the hotel at 11:00 to take in the fireworks from the comfort of our own rooms.  A day of juxtapositions indeed, one we will remember for a long time.

– Will Bowman ’21, Will Holland ’21, and Jack Shanahan ’21

Blog Post #3 – 12/30/2019
Ostrava, CZ

We started off today in Kladno with an early morning skate. After that, we packed all our gear and departed on the team bus for Ostrava, which is about 4 hours from Kladno. Halfway through our trip we stopped at a highway rest stop that served only American “delicacies” such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, and Subway. We found that it was difficult to order with the language barrier, but we ended up happy as we received our food fairly easily. In advance of our trip to Auschwitz tomorrow, we watched the beginning of Schindler’s List on the bus to provide us with some context on what we are going to experience tomorrow.

After arriving in Ostrava, we caught the second half of the Canada-Germany game at the U-20 World Junior Hockey Championships. Canada prevailed with a 4-1 victory. Next, we ate a quick dinner at a nearby local restaurant and then returned for the USA-Czech Republic game. The atmosphere in the building could only be described as electric – the Czech fans were extraordinarily passionate and rowdy about their team. Chants filled the arena all game long and when a Czech goal was disallowed we thought a fight may break out; luckily one did not. It was a back-and-forth game with teams trading scoring chances until the Americans finally put it away, 4-3, in overtime. As hockey players, we can take away a lot from this once in a lifetime experience and improve our games because of it. After this action packed day, we headed to the hotel in Trinec to grab some dinner before getting some much needed sleep.

-Andrew Bloomer ’22, Max Abene ’22, Isaac Abbott ‘22

Blog Post #2 –     12/29/2019
Prague, CZ

After a good night’s sleep we woke up to a great breakfast and headed to our 2nd practice in the Kladno arena.  After practice we saw Czech and NHL legend Jaromir Jágr skating sprints, on his own, in the other rink with the senior Kladno Knights team.  It was awesome to see the work ethic it takes to make it to the highest level.  When we headed to Prague later in the day, we were greeted by a fantastic tour guide who took us through the city and Prague castle.  It was a beautiful building and we were all amazed by the fantastic architecture and the history of old European buildings. We visited the Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter, where we saw two old synagogues and an ancient cemetery. It was a mind-blowing experience to see the names of the 80,000 Czech Holocaust victims written on the walls of one of the synagogues and artwork made by children in concentration camps. We couldn’t even imagine how much these people went through and that these 80,000 people constituted less than one percent of the victims of the Holocaust.

Next we headed to our game versus the Kladno Knights junior team. We were defeated 3-1 in a tough game. Even though we were unable to communicate with the other team or the refs, we connected with them through our love of the game. Playing some of the top junior players in Kladno was a once in a lifetime experience that we all will never forget. We all showed tremendous pride in representing Deerfield through great sportsmanship and positive attitudes. When the game concluded both team captains exchanged team gifts as a sign of respect. Both teams gathered together after the exchange for a group photo. After we took another photograph with NHL legend Jaromir Jágr, we were inspired to achieve great things in the sport. Overall it was a great first full day here in the Czech Republic and we are excited for the next chapter of our journey.

-Drew Garzone ‘23, Justin Katz ‘23, Owen Clifford ‘23, Brian Grant ‘23

Blog Post #1 – 12/28/2019
Munich Airport, Germany

Greetings from Munich, Germany! After an uneventful seven-hour flight, the boys are enjoying a kaffee and brotchen in the Munich Airport before the next leg of our journey to Prague. Although sleep was hard to come by on our trans-Atlantic flight, spirits are high and we are all looking forward to seeing Mr. Flaska this afternoon and getting out for our first skate on European ice tonight in Kladno!

Prague, Czech Republic

The group arrived on time and healthy to Prague, where Mr. Flaska met the team with a bus that quickly took the them to the rink to drop off our hockey equipment and to the hotel, where the team had a hot snack waiting for them before heading off to a practice that was led by the coach of Kladno’s elite junior team. Then, the team had a blast playing in an aqua park for 45 minutes and are now getting ready for dinner. A long journey here, but a fun and exciting introduction to Prague!

Go Big Green!