Checking In From The Czech Republic

The Daily Happenings Of The U.S. Under-18 Select Team At The 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup

T.C. Lewis, the team leader for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team, is writing a daily blog for USA Hockey Magazine. Check back throughout the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup for T.C.’s daily updates

Aug. 16, 2014

Greetings one last time from Breclav.

Certainly a tough one yesterday. We just didn’t have our A game going and it made for a frustrating game. Obviously we all would have loved to seen a different result. It made for a quiet dinner and bus ride, but we are now focused on winning the bronze.

After the game last night we walked across the street to the hotel where the other group of teams are staying. We had dinner of steak and rice with gravy and then got on the bus and headed back to Breclav.

This morning we let the players sleep in until 10:30 as we didn’t get back to Breclav until almost midnight. Breakfast was served for those who still got up early,  and at 10:30 we had a lunch of chicken and rice (you are probably seeing a trend with the meals).

Once we were done lunch we were back on the bus to Piestany. It seemed to take a bit more time than usual but we just go here around 1:15 p.m. The coaches will meet with the players at 1:30 p.m. and then we play at 3 against Sweden.  

We will have dinner back in Breclav and then pack tonight so we can get up at 6 a.m., grab a quick bite and get back on the bus for our trip to Vienna.  

I have attached two photos, one shows the rink we are playing in today (and the café I am typing this email in) and the other is our hotel along the river in Breclav.

We will not be streaming today’s game.  We apologize but have had very weak or nonexistent Internet and it has made things frustrating.  We have heard that the game will be shown on www.slovaksport.tv but we don’t know what the cost might be and if it is available in the United States.  The website is not all that English friendly.  

At this point, we are all looking forward to getting back home and seeing our friends and families. With that said, we  have certainly enjoyed representing the United States in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. 

 

Regardless of how we do today, everyone should be very proud of their son’s as they have represented their country, their communities and their families with class and dignity. And thank you for entrusting your son’s with our staff this summer, it was a pleasure working with each and every one of them.

Aug. 15, 2014

Ahoj

It’s semifinal Friday. The day off for everyone was nice as we were able to try our skills at a few other sports. The sports center we went to had several different areas and as soon as we got there the players broke into three different groups. One group was bowling in what might be considered nine pin bowling (nine pins and smaller balls). The second group played pingpong and the third group went to the outdoor beach volleyball area. The players rotated on their own to the various areas if they were so inclined.

We were there for 1.5 hours and it was a nice diversion. It is always interesting to see the other skills that the players have away from the rink. And competitiveness obviously runs deep in these athletes. 

We got back to the hotel in time for dinner. Then there was downtime, followed by a snack and lights out around 10:30 p.m. Once we got back from the sports center everything turned towards the task at hand – facing Canada in the semifinals.

We have had breakfast, took a walk to town and back and had a team meeting to go over video and our game plan for tonight. Right now everyone is chilling a bit and then it is lunch and a bus trip to Piestany.  

Game time, 5:30 p.m. local time. 

Vel’a Stastia, Team USA.

Aug. 14, 2014

Well by now you know that the boys had a huge win last night and we are now into the crossover round. Tomorrow we play Canada at 5:30 p.m. local time in Piestany, Slovakia. That is the same arena where we played Slovakia in our exhibition game.

The tournament gives every team a day off after the completion of the round-robin play. We still had ice time and we chose to use it for our unofficial team photo, as well as letting the players have a bit of a fun time. After practice a few of the coaches and players participated in the ALS Challenge that is sweeping the globe the last couple of weeks.  
 
Once back from practice the players had about an hour to catch up on sleep or more likely, get on the Internet and get their social media fix. At 4:40 p.m. we will walk to a local bowling alley where we will bowl, play pool and ping pong. We will be back for dinner and wrap up the evening with a late-night snack. 
 
Tomorrow has us up around 9:30 for breakfast. For lunch we let the players select what they wanted as a pre-game meal and they chose spaghetti with meat sauce. After lunch we head to the rink to pack for the 1.5-hour bus trip to Piestany.

Everyone is amped up for the game against the Canadians. We are hopeful that we will be able to make the game available tomorrow, either via the Slovak Hockey Federation or via Ustream. I should l know more shortly.

Aug. 13, 2014

Greetings again from Breclav. 

I must admit that writing these updates is much better after a win. Last night’s game was a lot of fun. The players played great and it created such a buzz knowing that we are playing today with something on the line.

After last night’s big win over the Russians, we went back to the hotel for a cold water bath and dinner. Then we took the bus back to the rink to watch the Czech Republic take on Finland, our opponent today.

In between periods we walked to the corner to buy a few snacks but we were again reminded that we aren’t in America. We got to three different stores at roughly 8:45 p.m. only to find that everything was closed. Convenience isn’t the same over here. After the game was over it was back to the hotel for a snack and bed.

Since we play today at 3:30 p.m., just as we did yesterday, the schedule doesn’t change all that much. We had breakfast at 9:30 a.m. followed by a brisk walk down the river and a meeting with the coaching staff. We will have lunch (lots of carbs and protein), take a bit of time to relax and get to the rink around 1:30 p.m. for the game.

As you can imagine, the use of smart phones is high on the priority list with the guys and the hotel lobby sees a lot of the guys together but all with their cell phones in use. Team rules don’t allow them at team functions, including meals, but if there is downtime, the players are napping or on their phones. Needless to say, the staff uses their phones a lot as well, but it is always to catch up on work.

As for the streaming part, we are hoping we can work out our Internet/connectivity issue out but no guarantees. I haven’t sent out this link, most probably have it but if not it has some nice photos from the tournament.http://hlinkamemorial.com/eng/index.asp. The players and staff with the U18 squad want to wish the U17’s good luck in Germany this week. Let’s both come home with gold.

Aug. 12, 2014

Well, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup is officially under way. It was exciting to play the Czechs in our first game. The crowd was large and loud, as the drums never seemed to stop.

Even with the raucous atmosphere inside the Zimní Stadium, our players were relaxed and ready to go. I think after several days of practice and relaxing that they were looking forward to getting the tournament started.


They played hard but it just wasn’t our night. We certainly had our chances throughout the game, but we spent too much time in the penalty box. When you play a good team like the Czechs that will cost you.

It was raining after the game so we caught a bus back to our hotel. It was no more than a four-minute ride, but it sure was a quiet bus. Players and staff alike were hoping for a different result and that left everyone in a bit of a somber mood. 

Still, by the time we got back to the hotel and ate, you could sense everyone was already starting to focus on the next game. The coaching staff was up late breaking down film of our game against the Czechs and preparing a game plan for our second game against the Russians. 

We woke up today at 9:30 a.m. and had a quick breakfast and then a brisk walk down to the river and back. That was followed by a team meeting where the coaches went over video from yesterday’s game (photo attached). After that there was a bit of down time and lunch (chicken noodle soup, pasta, creamed spinach and chicken). With a light rain continuing to fall, we took a bus to the rink.

It’s great that the tournament is finally under way, and everyone is focused on the task at hand. Playing three games in three days gives us little time to catch our breath. Still, this is a great tournament and a fantastic opportunity for our players to test themselves against some of the world’s best. 

Aug. 11, 2014

We are finally at Day 1 of the tournament. Lots of excitement building. 

Yesterday we only have one practice but it was a good one. With only one practice we had a fair amount of downtime. The players have a lot of energy but the staff has been trying to instill the need for rest as the next few days can be exhausting. 

After lunch yesterday, we gave the players a good rest period. Normally that might have created some boredom but during lunch the Wi-Fi came back up so everyone was very excited and spent a bit of time catching up with what was going on back home. We had dinner at 6 p.m. and then we took the players for ice cream in the town center, which is about a 10-minute walk from the hotel.

It was a Sunday so most everything was closed up but we did find a supermarket where they guys got some ice cream and a few got a soda. When I went looking for ice cream earlier in the day I realized that some of the stores had what I thought was odd hours.

The ice cream place I wanted to go to on Saturdays is only open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. I asked our translator why that was and it was explained that it is a carryover from the Communist days. Back then, it was expected that you got your shopping done by noon and then went back home and tended to your family and your garden. When we got back to the hotel it was back on the Internet for some and others hung out and had fun with the teammates.

The coaching staff spent the afternoon breaking down some video (the second photo shows the staff in the basement of the hotel working on the video) and then watched the PGA Championship on various laptops. Today we had our breakfast at 9 a.m. and then we walked to the rink. 

We have a pre-game skate for 30 minutes and then it is back to the hotel for a snack (usually bread and some ham and cheese) and then lunch before we head back to the rink for Game 1 against the host team, the Czech Republic.

Many have asked about streaming the game. Our hope is still to stream it on Ustream (ustream.com and then search for Hlinka 2013). If all goes well we will broadcast as best we can. Internet connectivity is the biggest obstacle but not the only one.




Aug. 10, 2014

It was a great game last night as players were excited and it made for a nice ride from Piestany to Breclav. The drive took a little less than two hours and got us to the hotel around 11 p.m.

Our hotel has no air conditioning for the most part and it was a bit hot last night, but the players handled it well and it seems most got decent rest last night. We were up at 9 a.m., had breakfast and headed to the rink for an hour practice starting at 11:15 a.m.

The only issue so far has been the lack of Wi-Fi. The hotel has it but for some reason most can’t connect to it. We are working on that issue but so far it hasn’t been solved. At the rink there are a few we can access but they are password controlled. Working on that issue as well.

If all goes as planned we will broadcast the game via Ustream (ustream.com and then search for Hlinka 2013). It isn’t the best but it is the best option we have at this point. Last I knew, none of the games in the Czech Republic were being broadcast officially.

Today we have a fair amount of downtime. The players can get a bit antsy but we are getting across to them that they need the rest given the number of games in a short period of time. Everyone is excited for our first tournament game tomorrow against the Czechs. We watched them practice today and the building should have some good energy with the host playing.

That is all for now.

Aug. 9, 2014

It is moving day and so there is lots going on. But let’s start were I left off yesterday.

After our practice yesterday we took the team to a swimming pool that is basically a community pool. Some of the players hung out on the side getting some shade while others worked on their flips and diving. And the third group met some locals and played volleyball in the pool. It was nice to do something a bit different for a change.

We had an early dinner (4:30 p.m.) so we also had a snack at the hotel at 8:30 p.m. Then, as a treat, we took those who wanted to go, to McDonalds. We also set up a movie in a conference room for that that wanted to watch something in English. Not many takers as rest seem to take priority. As has been the norm, our lights out is at 10:30 p.m.

This morning we got to sleep in until 9. Breakfast was the same as the last few days but given the variety, that is a good thing. We then went to the rink for some off ice work and to pack up our equipment.

Right now we are waiting for lunch, which was spaghetti with meat sauce. We have already packed our bags and will load the bus at 1:30 p.m. We should be in Piestany around 3 p.m. for our 5:30 p.m. exhibition game against Slovakia.

As soon as the game ended we ordered some pizzas and headed back to our hotel in Breclav.

That is all for now.

Aug. 8, 2014

Good morning again from Trnava, Slovakia.

The boys were up early again today and looking forward to a good practice. The weather has been terrific, which has made for much better sleeping than we would have expected. With no air conditioning in the rooms, the ability to leave the windows open and get some cool air has been welcomed.

Breakfast today was, for the most part, a repeat of yesterday. Everyone seems to be getting enough to eat and the food has been quite good. We even had hamburgers and chicken wings cooked on a grill for dinner last night. We also went down the street to a restaurant that has excellent pizza so the guys were well feed last night.

We have two practices scheduled for today as we prepare for our exhibition game tomorrow afternoon in Piestany.

An hour before our ice time our trainer takes the players to a second ice surface that is covered with sport court in the summer. They will typically do some dynamic stretching and play whiffle ball, soccer or something similar. The players have a ball with it and it really shows their athleticism. 

Until tomorrow…

Aug. 7, 2014

Greetings from Trnava, Slovakia

After a very busy first few days, the players and staff for the U.S. Under-18 Select team participating in the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup are finally starting to settle down and get to the business at hand.

The short stay in the Nations’ Capital was productive as the team got to know each other quickly.  Our hosts, the Washington Capitals, could not have been better. They obviously have first-class facilities and it is always so nice that they allow us to use them in our preparations. We got on the ice four times and the staff was able to install some systems that will be utilized in the tournament.

Our trip over here on Tuesday afternoon could not have gone smoother. We got through the check in process and security was quicker than any of us had ever seen. The flight over the Atlantic went well and having a direct flight made for a much quicker trip that we have experienced in the past.

Yesterday was tough on everyone as we wanted to acclimate ourselves to the time change as quickly as possible and therefore we tried to keep everyone up once we landed in Vienna.

Once we landed, we took a short bus trip to Trnava, Slovakia where we went to the rink to drop off our equipment and then to the hotel to check in. We all went to the town center for some sightseeing but the main objective was to keep everyone awake until we had to head to the rink.

We had our first practice over here at 5 p.m., local time. It was good to get on the ice, and practice went great considering how long everyone had been up.

Today, Thursday, we have had breakfast (lots of different options, eggs, ham, yogurt, and cereal) at the hotel and headed to the rink for the first of two practices today. We are on the ice at 9:15 a.m., and then again at 3:45 p.m. In between we will have a team meeting probably a bit of a nap. The boys are looking forward to a snack tonight of pizza, which is excellent over here, by the way.

Anyway, hopefully this gives everyone a bit of a sense of what we are going through. I’ll try to touch base daily so even if you can’t be here you will have a sense of what we are experiencing.

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