“He had a great heart”: Tomáš Plekanec retires from professional hockey
With a career spanning over two decades, 41-year-old Czech professional ice hockey player Tomáš Plekanec announced his retirement from the game on Saturday evening. Known as ‘Pleky’ by his devoted fans, he spent more than a decade with NHL team the Montreal Canadiens, and also played for the Czech national team, leading the squad as captain in the 2018 World Championships. To learn more about the legacy he will leave on the ice, I spoke with Radiožurnál sports reporter, František Kuna.
“As a player, he had a great heart – and Czech fans love him because when he played at the World Championships or for the Czech National team, he showed up. He played at 11 World Championships, and that was because many times the Montreal Canadiens did not make the playoffs, so he had the time to play for the Czech national team. For his opponents, they wanted to play with him, but not against him. He could be a little bit tough to play against.”
He spent only one year out of his NHL career away from the Canadiens, when he went to their rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs. Can you tell me about this trade?
“Maybe it’s the same as Calgary and Edmonton, the same kind of rivalry. I don’t know how it happened – at the end of his career, he didn’t have too much time on ice, and sometimes they will make trades so players have more time to play. But it was only 17 games with the Leafs, not even half a season. I don’t know why it happened, but it was a very brief trade, and he went back to the Canadiens after that.”
After his NHL career ended, he went back to his hometown of Kladno to play for the Knights. Can you tell me a bit about this part of his career?
“He came back from the NHL after having played in all the major arenas across Canada and the United States. The Bell Centre in Montreal, and Madison Square Garden in New York. When he came back to Kladno, he played the second league. He wasn’t playing in small villages, but it was smaller towns with stadiums of only four to five thousand people. But playing together with Jágr, they could sell out stadiums all over the Czech Republic, and Plekanec helped Kladno reach the first level. He played for Kladno for six or seven years, at the highest Czech level at his age.”
When people think of famous Czech hockey players, they might think of Jaromír Jágr or David Krejčí, who also just retired this year. But what was special about Plekanec as a player?
“His heart and his passion to play the game of hockey, every day. I remember him during the Copenhagen World Championship in 2018 – there was a training rink, and the training started at 10am, but Plekanec was the captain and also the oldest guy on the team. He was on the ice at 9:45, alone, 15 minutes before just to get some extra training time. So maybe that’s the reason why he was on top.”