Stumbling down memory lane can be a tricky path, you have to be careful not to trek down it too often, especially the longer you’re doing that gig. This marks the beginning of my 45th full-time season as a sportswriter and I had no intention of doing so again before the NHL Global Series meant the official NHL season began Friday in Prague.
The two games in Prague were the sixth and seventh NHL regular season games played there, but the first-ever visit by an NHL team came in 1989 when the Calgary Flames spent a week there before heading to Kyiv, St. Petersburg and then left Moscow on a 17-day trip officially called The Friendship Tour. Hakan Loob had retired to return to Sweden after the Flames’ Stanley Cup win; At the end of the trip, the Flames picked up his successor Sergei Makarov in Moscow.
On this tour, Makarov had the option to play for either CSKA, his former team, or Calgary, and he chose Calgary. It was a time of great change for the NHL. Makarov was one of the first Russian players to receive official permission from the government to play professional ice hockey in North America.
Months earlier, the Flames had drafted a young Czech named Robert Reichel 77th in the 1989 Entry Draft, and the Hartford Whalers had made an even bolder move, picking up Robert Holik in 10th pick.
The tour guide, Jan Janda, agreed to take two reporters and the coaching team to Pribram, where the Czech national team’s training center was located, and offered to act as a translator for an interview with Reichel.
Times were changing politically, but no one knew exactly how quickly times would change, or how soon players like Reichel or Holik would be allowed to freely venture into North America. The most memorable part of the interview was when a tall, skinny player walked past us out of the rink.
https://theathletic.com/3668749/2022/10/07/global-series-memories-thoughts-on-predators-sharks-and-more-duhatschek-notebook/?source=rss Memories of the Global Series, Thoughts on Predators, Sharks and More: Duhatschek Notebook