Punishment Not Medal
Monday´s Comment
Punishment Not Medal
1. 2. 2016

Hope I’m not annoying you with a few sports questions the first thing on Monday morning. Do you know the first Czech that ever played in the overseas NHL after 1990? And who, with the captain’s emblem on his chest, pushed his team towards the Nagano Winter Olympics God Medal in 1998? Can you picture the Czech ice hockey luminary watching his charges on the ice, nervously chewing gum and directing his team by the movements of his eyes? If your answer is, Chomutov Coach Vladimír Růžička, we are of the same blood. Although, unlike the vast percentage of Czech hockey fans, I am not an insider when it comes to the game’s environment and who’s who, I know that he has dedicated all his life to hockey, fought many hockey matches in hos Slavia Prague colours and overseas, where he had first to make it to the core team.

Hope I’m not annoying you with a few sports questions the first thing on Monday morning. Do you know the first Czech that ever played in the overseas NHL after 1990? And who, with the captain’s emblem on his chest, pushed his team towards the Nagano Winter Olympics God Medal in 1998? Can you picture the Czech ice hockey luminary watching his charges on the ice, nervously chewing gum and directing his team by the movements of his eyes?

If your answer is, Chomutov Coach Vladimír Růžička, we are of the same blood. Although, unlike the vast percentage of Czech hockey fans, I am not an insider when it comes to the game’s environment and who’s who, I know that he has dedicated all his life to hockey, fought many hockey matches in hos Slavia Prague colours and overseas, where he had first to make it to the core team.

Today, however, Vladimír Růžička is fighting a battle he was not trained to wage and I daresay he never had in his game plan strategy. Sure, as a member of the Czech Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, he must be accustomed to media attention. But now he faces a barrage of questions concerning embezzlement charges because a video recording indicting him of accepting half a million crowns from the father of a young player who, daddy thought, should be listed with a hockey dream team.

Gone, it seems, are the days when a young sport talent could make it big in his chosen field without “financial donations”, liaison or simply bribing the coach. It seems a sports success will elevate one only in the sports where no big money is turning around. I have never heard of anyone who had to pay for his offspring’s inclusion in, say, a lacrosse or softball team.

I want to believe that the recoding was planted in order to denigrate a former successful coach of the Czech national side that he pushed to the highest ranks. I want to believe that it was a desperate attempt of the father of a son who simply “ain’t got it”.

Alas, facts talk: Růžička accepted the money, did not produce a deed of donation, failed to write it in the hockey club’s books, and kept the money in a safe box without telling the club’s officials. Crime was committed and returning the money to the father was not of much help.

Encouraged by the disclosure of the scandal, some other parents also confided they had been asked to demonstrate their positive attitude to the Slavia hockey team by donating hundreds of thousands of crowns on behalf of their hockey-crazy juniors.

I can’t resist the impression that there might be a grain of truth in the charges Police officially pressed on and delivered to Vladimír Růžičkova. In light of these disconcerting events, I am sorry for young players who have to multiply their sweaty efforts by saving money if they want to make it big and from now on and will have to constantly ask if their idols also had to pay, or actually also take money and if so, God knows why.

I am also sorry for the hockey star Růža [his nickname], whose ice hockey glory is waning under the impact of the charges brought against him.

My only hope is that there is no video incriminating, say, Jaromír Jágr, of corrupt conduct. If there is, I swear I will throw my skates to the nearest trashcan.

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