New KHL club Lev Praha takes root in Czech capital
The newly-formed hockey club Lev Praha has made its debut in the Kontinental Hockey League. The first Czech-based team to join the KHL got two wins out of its three home games before setting off on a tour of Russia and Belarus. But has the new club also succeeded in bringing Czech hockey fans to see KHL action in Prague?
Some members of Lev’s emerging fans spoke to Radio Prague about why they came to root for the new club.
“It’s the first Czech club in the KHL, and it’s an opportunity to see some of the world’s best players. It’s something new that has not been here before.”
“I just hope that the fan club will grow. The best hockey league in Europe is now in the Czech Republic, and I think it will be great.”
One of the big questions ahead of the Lev’s premiere in the Kontinetal Hockey League was whether the team would find enough fans in Prague where two clubs – Slavia and Sparta – sometimes struggle to attract crowds to their own Czech top division games.
Former NHL player and Czech TV hockey commentator Martin Hosták believes that people will buy tickets, especially when some of the KHL’s best teams come to the city.
One of the things that helped is around half of Lev Praha roster is Czech; in fact, the team can rely on some of the best Czech hockey players, such as national team stars Jakub Klepiš, Jiří Novotný, Tomáš Pöpperle, and others.
Meanwhile, there were indeed signs that the KHL is primarily a Russian-based league. For example, Lev head coach Josef Jandač addressed a post-match news conference in fluent Russian. But can historical reminiscences play a role today, more than 20 years after the fall of communism? Maybe with older fans, says Martin Hosták.
Lev Praha returns from its three-game trip to Russian and Belarus in some ten days which should give its fans in Prague enough time to come up with just the right chants.