Hockey matters

Tschechien besiegt Kanada 6:2 (Foto: CTK)

A week after the Czech Republic joined the European Union, European issues were put on the backburner by most ordinary Czechs in favour of matters of "worldly" importance - namely the 68th Ice Hockey World Championship. A tournament the Czechs won three times in a row, last in 2001. Think the world championship isn't important for European hockey fans? Nothing could be further from the truth!

Okay, we know the tournament barely registers on the sport barometer in North America, maybe a 3 by 10 centimetre mention in the paper's last page, but here it is practically a national holiday. And the Czechs go crazy! National teams include as many NHL players in their roster as possible to try and win the prize. Sweden. Finland. Canada. Russia: just a few of the sixteen teams that take part.

In the Czech Republic, watching hockey in May is as regular as kissing on Petrin Hill. Say you're angry at the government, or worried about the new EU, or the VAT tax? Who cares?!! All issues are dropped without a moment's notice as more serious questions takes centre stage

Questions like:

Who will the Czech coach recruit?

Who will play on which line?

And who will be the starting goalie? Now, that is important.

Here in the Czech Republic, we take our hockey seriously.

We weigh the difference between wide European rinks and the ones in North America

we analyse the icing rule

we scrutinise the combination game

and ultimately we decide who's hot and who's not.

Of course, hosting the championships in Prague and Ostrava this year meant even more scrutiny for the Czech team - and when all is said and done it will be remembered as a great group of players who had a lot of potential - not least a superb goalie who brought flourish to the game.

Unfortunately, the Czechs' hopes went unrealised in the end. Though they got off to a winning start they were stopped dead this week in the quarter-finals. A stadium of more than 17, 000 went deathly quiet and suddenly all discussion stopped.

The Czechs had lost. Armchair analysis went out the window, further speculation was in vain. For a moment nobody really knew... what to talk about now.