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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sparta win!....Sparta win!...Sparta win!...

While the Minnesota Wild are suffering through the first round of the NHL playoffs, the professional Czech Elite League has just finished its equivalent of the Stanley Cup finals. Prague has two teams in the league - Sparta and Slavia. Sparta plays in an old smaller arena - kind of a cross between the old St. Paul auditorium and the old Met Center (that sentence made me realize how old I really am), while Slavia plays in a brand new 18,000 seat arena along the lines of the Xcel Energy arena. We support Sparta but mostly because that is the team that my company gets season tickets to. Nice seats, too - VIP box seats.
The tickets are occasionally used to entertain Czech politicians but often they are available for employees to get and we went to three regular season games (a lot of our jounalists are from the "Stans" - Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgistan, etc. where ice hockey isn't a big thing). So we lucked out and got to see game 6 of the final series between Sparta and hated Parduvice. Sparta had been up 3 games to 1 but was beaten handily on Thursday night, 5-1. They needed a win tonight to avoid a seventh game in Parduvice.
It was a great game with Sparta dominating but the Parduvice goalie singlehandedly keeping the game close. In the end Sparta prevailed 2-0 to take the championship, their second in a row.
The energy and the noise were amazing. There were two coworkers of mine who left after the first period because it was just too loud for them. The feel is a lot different than NHL playoff games. It's closer to a European soccer match - must be a European thing. Lots of flag waving. Non-stop chants. The arena is multi-level but the first level behind each goal has no seats and everyone stands. These are the areas for the young, rabid, chanting fans from each side (each team has its own side, of course). I was a bit concerned that a riot would break out at the end of the game - very much like European soccer - but there was nothing but good sportmanship all around. Lots of police, too, which probably encouraged the sportsmanship.
Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor for the evening. It was a lot of fun! Go Sparta!!

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