Czech Referees Make History at World Hockey Championships in Vienna
That's the sound of more than 13,000 loyal Czech fans who packed Prague's T-Mobile arena last night. They came to support the Czech national team in its last world hockey championship practice game, a very close one which they lost by one point against Canada. The Championships begin on Saturday in Vienna, and here, all eyes will be on the Czech team - which has 26 NHL players on the roster, including Jaromir Jagr. But it's not only the Czech players that are getting attention - it's also Czech referees. There will be more of them at the championships this year than from any other country. Kate Barrette met up with one of them, and has more.
"Yes, I will go for my seventh championship in a row, and of course I'm looking to have here some interesting and important games, especially in the playoffs, and I hope to be in the final. This is the same goal as with the players, to play in the final game. As referees - we want to be here, do a good job, and be in the final."
While all the traveling is a strain, there's a reason Vladimir is working his seventh consecutive world championship. His keen referees' eyes - which noted I was wearing a coat that was much too heavy for the temperature that day and spotted a ticket on a car from tens of metres away when we were walking through Plzen - revealed a person who doesn't miss much.
Vladimir will attend the championships with three other Czech officials. He confirmed that the Czech Republic would be sending more officials than any other country.
"Yes, that's true - we'll have two referees and two linesmen. The other countries will have a maximum of three referees, and I think this is the first time in history that one country will have four referees in the world championship."
I asked him why he thought there were going to be more Czech referees and linesmen at this year's tournament:
Finally, we talked about Vladimir's predictions for the Czech team and the role of the NHL lockout in strengthening the team:
"We will have a very good team, with a lot of big stars playing for the Czech Republic, and I think we can expect very good results. I think it's good for the Czech team that all these (NHL) players played ice hockey for the whole season. I heard that some Canadian stars didn't play for the whole season, and only trained. I think it's better to play - it means the players are in better condition and better shape before the games."