For many members of Slovakia's national hockey team a dream came true at the World Junior Championship: to play at the highest level among the world's elite, in a country where hockey is No. 1. But there is the other side of the coin, having to spend Christmas and New Year away from family and friends, in a foreign country. Slovak hockey players were lucky that the round-robin part of the World Cup was in Montreal where is a large Slovak community, so they could very quickly feel being among family. And they have lots of friends not just among Slovak Canadians, because a majority of Quebec's population still remembers the Slovak Šťastný brothers as the engine of NHL's Quebec Nordiques, and where the inhabitants have always considered them as theirs.
Therefore, the meeting of Slovak hockey players and staff with Montreal's Slovaks in Sts. Cyril and Methodius church hall actually became a one big get-together of family and friends. It was a great opportunity for the Slovak fans in Canada to meet the young men representing us in this year's championship. Our hockey players, humble and friendly, came smiling and in good spirits.
The community prepared a traditional Christmas lunch for the boys, which they seemed to have truly enjoyed. This was preceded by an encouraging speech from the Slovak Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Andrej Droba who praised their commendable performance the night before in the game against Finland and followed by some informal mingling and group photos with the team.
Slovak representatives knew that in Montreal they are at home. Immediately, they convincingly defeated Germany and Czech Republic and will play for the medals. In Toronto they will be still able to play like on home ice, because in Toronto awaits them even greater Slovak Canadian community.
Go Slovakia Do!
Text: Maria Habanikova a Paul Carnogursky, Photos: Tibor Dej