Hockey Brings the Winter

Today it snowed in Prague for the first time this winter.  It was just a light flurry, more for ambiance than anything, like the winter sky was giving us a knowing wink to declare itself and affirm that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  It’d didn’t stick to the ground or even leave it wet and tomorrow it’ll be like it never happened.

While sometimes it may not seem like winter in the streets of Prague it is definitely winter in her hockey rinks.  Yesterday the gang and I saw a Slavia-Sparta match.  Both Sparta and Slavia are Prague based clubs with a Yankees-Mets style rivalry and though the riot police were in attendance they (sadly) weren’t needed.  Who doesn’t love a good sports riot?  European Ice Hockey is far less violent than it’s North American cousin and the few shoving matches we saw didn’t spiral into much.  The match was a well balanced event ending in a 1-2 victory for Sparta with the final goal scored late in the 3rd.

The real highlight of the match came during the first break in the form of … magic!  The magician was a misdirected guy in his mid-thirties with a penchant for tying things to strings so they appeared to be floating.  He also loved dancing to terrible rock music.  Think Gob from Arrested Development. He wasn’t so good at unhooking the ropes after the bit or, for that matter, walking on ice but his act did ridiculously culminate with two scantily clad girls ”appearing” in a cage.  His best trick was lighting the ice on fire but sadly I’m don’t think he noticed.

All in all it wasn’t much different from attending an American sports event.  The O2 Arena has capacity for 17,000 and it has the same cheesy 80’s music during time-outs (including the Queen for the rally song); the same silly graphics and fan close-ups on the jumb-tron; the same jersey wearing fans with their faces painted; and even beer vendors walking through the stands.

What’s unique to an American are the ubiquitous team scarves that the fans whip around their heads in support; the Coca-Cola logo at the food vendors next to pictures of quintessential Czech foods like halušky, bramborák and lángos; and, most amazingly, not being charged double for food and drink. Beer was actually cheaper at the arena than in many pubs.

So maybe winter is here after all.  I hear there is  snow in the mountains.  Maybe I’ll be skiing soon.

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