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“Czech Hockey Days” in New York Connected with Hockey Player Patrik Eliáš

A series of events related to the celebration of Czech hockey took place in New York between the 22nd and 25th of February. The first one of them was the “Czech Heritage Night at New Jersey Devils”. Later, during the hockey game of this team on February 24th, the jersey of the Czech winger Patrik Eliáš was ceremoniously removed from the line-up. Finally, the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York organized a get-together with the hockey player at the Bohemian National Hall on February 25th, which was combined with a fashion show of Czech fashion designer Iva Pfeiffer. During this event, the consul general of the Czech Republic awarded Patrik Eliáš the Jan Masaryk Medal for helping to spread the country’s good reputation abroad. 

The three events that followed one another at the end of February commemorated the strong trace of Czech hockey players in the Canadian-American NHL (National Hockey League). The successful Czech hockey player Patrik Eliáš, who was at the center of these events, ended his exceptional career in the club New Jersey Devils in 2016, and was now rewarded for it with a spectacular ceremony that included the removal of his jersey with the number 26 from the club’s line-up.

The first one of the events was the Czech Heritage Night at New Jersey Devils, which was organized by the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York together with the New Jersey club, and took place during the last game of the team against Minnesota Wild. Before the game, the Czech singer Pavlína Horáková performed in the interior of the stadium with pop-rock covers of Czech (and Slovakian) folk songs. The travel agency CzechTourism also had a stall in the hall and gave out clappers with the inscription Czech Republic on them. At the beginning of the game, Patrik Eliáš ceremoniously threw the puck into the ice-rink, and all Czech spectators received a welcome to the game on the jumbotron (the large-screen block hanging over the ice rink). After the game ended, the attending Czechs had the chance to step onto the ice, where a group photo was taken.

On Saturday the 24th, at the game of the New Jersey Devils against the New York Islanders, the number 26 was ceremoniously removed from the line-up. This was the number with which Patrik Eliáš played during his career in the club. He became the third Czech hockey player to have this honor, after Dominik Hašek (whose number 39 belonged to the team Buffalo Sabres) and Milan Hejduk (whose number 23 will never be worn by any hockey player from the Colorado Avalanche). At the same time, he became the fifth player of the New Jersey Devils club, after S. Stevens, K. Daneyk, S. Niedermayer and M. Brodeur. The two-hour long ceremony was attended by other Czech hockey players, including Marek Židlický, Martin Havlát, Bobby Holik and Petr Sýkora, as well as the officials of the club, the league representatives, and all four players of the Devils whose jerseys already hang on the ceiling of the Prudential Center.

During his speech, the visibly moved Patrik Eliáš summed up his career from his beginnings in Třebíč to his career in Kladno and his involvement with the famous club in New Jersey. When he addressed his parents, he switched to his mother tongue, Czech. Before the start of the game (in which the Devils beat the Islanders 2:1) opera singer Adam Plachetka, who has been hosting at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for three seasons, sang the Czech anthem. The gala night was covered by various Czech media – it was even broadcasted by Nova Sport, one of the few Czech TV channels that has the rights to transmit the NHL.

The following day, the Consulate General in cooperation with the Czech Center and the BBLA (Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association) organized an afternoon at the Bohemian National Hall which joined a fashion show of Czech designer Iva Pfeiffer with an interview with Patrik Eliáš. The crowded concert hall first had the opportunity to admire imaginative models of the renowned Czech fashion designer, who attended the show in person. The fashion show was accompanied by Czech pianist Tomáš Kačo, graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, who had his debut at the Carnegie Hall only a couple of days earlier. The floor was then given to Patrik Eliáš, who received a roaring applause in the national hall. At the beginning of the session, the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, Miroslav Rameš, awarded the Czech hockey player the Jan Masaryk Medal as an award for his long-lasting contributions to the good reputation of the Czech Republic abroad. After, an hour-long interview took place, during which there was space for the present fans to ask the famous hockey player questions. Before the end of the program, pucks with the CzechTourism/Czech Republic logo, signed by Patrik Eliáš himself, were given to the participants whose names were drawn in the raffle. The afternoon at the Bohemian National Hall was rounded up with the auction of the hockey stick with which Patrik Eliáš played as the captain of the Czech team at the winter Olympic games in Vancouver in 2010, together with his signed jersey and two VIP tickets to a game of the New Jersey Devils including free entry to the team’s locker room after the game. The second auction item was a wedding dress designed by Iva Pfeiffer. The proceeds, which amounted to a sum of about 10.000 USD, were given to the Czech committee for UNICEF, for which Patrik Eliáš is a Goodwill Ambassador.