Czech mates have landed, ready for first action with the Flames
Hudler, Cervenka both getting over scary injuries in overseas play
Jiri Hudler touched down in Calgary on Wednesday ready to tackle two massive jobs in his new hometown.
His major responsibility, of course, is to fill the net and rack up the points as a top-six forward for the Calgary Flames.
His sideline occupation is that of tour guide and translator for his countryman, Roman Cervenka.
“Obviously I’m going to help him out a little bit when he is going to need it,” Hudler said after a 90-minute visit with customs officials to get his immigration paperwork all sorted out at the Calgary International Airport. “It’s a lot easier when you speak the language.”
Signed by Calgary last summer as a free agent from the Detroit Red Wings, Hudler jokingly said he spent the journey from Prague to Calgary giving Cervenka free English lessons.
Truth be told, no one in Calgary will care if Cervenka utters a single word in this language if can live up to his reputation as one of the best, if not the best, hockey player outside of the NHL in 2011/12.
Want to know why the Flames let 33-year-old Olli Jokinen (23 goals, 62 points) walk via free agency to the Winnipeg Jets? The addition of Cervenka clearly made it more palatable for the team to watch that kind of scoring, especially up the middle, depart for (colder) pastures
“Very intelligent,” Hudler said in providing a scouting report on his travelling companion “He’s been scoring everywhere he played. For sure knows how to score goals.
“You’ll just see that he’s doing everything right. Everywhere. He went in Europe, he was successful — Russia, the Czech League, the national team.
“So this is his next step, and he’s excited.”
Cervenka has not played for more than a month after being hit by a puck in a game with HC Lev Praha, of the Kontinental Hockey League. The 27-year-old suffered a blood clot and is still taking blood thinners as a precautionary measure.
The Flames originally feared Cervenka might not even be able to fly to Calgary in time for camp, only to learn he received clearance from the medical staff back in the Czech Republic.
Next up: a visit with the Flames’ physician to shed more light on the situation.
“I’m going to talk to the doctors right away, probably tomorrow,” Cervenka said in his native Czech, with Hudler providing translation. “They’re going to decide what to do
“I’m pretty sure I’m very close to being back on the ice.”
Hudler, 29, is coming off an injury scare of his own after taking a skate blade to the neck on Boxing Day in a Czech League game.
“Yeah, I got lucky there,” said Hudler, no slouch himself offensively with 25 goals and 50 points last season in Detroit. “Obviously, a skate in the neck, but it missed all the main things in the neck.”
He dragged his index finger down a fading scar above his collar line.
“It looks good now,” he said. “It’s been two weeks. I already played one game four days ago.”
Like Cervenka, Hudler can’t wait to start the next chapter of his hockey career.
“That’s the part I’m excited about most, the fans and the passion for hockey,” he said. “In Detroit, it was really good. There were unbelievable people there, but Canada, it seems like it’s another level. I’m excited a lot about that hype.
“I said it when I signed. I felt like in this building here before, obviously against the Flames, I had a good thing going. I felt really good on the ice here.”
Hudler hopes that affection for playing in Calgary catches on with his countryman in Cervenka, who actually spent time during the flight showing his fellow passengers pictures of his new baby.
His wife gave birth to son Denis (a beautiful boy, according to Hudler) less than two weeks ago. So leaving home was tough.
“For sure, but the NHL has always been my dream to play in the league,” Cervenka said. “I’m hoping the baby and mom are going to be here soon.”
With that, Hudler and Cervenka shuffled off to their hotel for some much-needed shut-eye, but not before curious onlookers snapped photos on their smartphones of the two newest Flames.
Inquiring minds in Calgary already want to know whether the Czech mates will be linemates.
“I didn’t even think about that,” Hudler said. “It’s not a question for us. We’re just going to play hard, and we’ll see what the coaches are going to do.”
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