Michal Spacek: Coming into his Own
While Spacek didn’t start the year with the Thunder, he showed Head Coach Rich Kromm enough to warrant him keeping the 21 year-old around and eventually sign the defenseman on October 28th.
Having now played in eight contests for the Thunder, Spacek is coming into his own as to what his role on the team is.
“I think everyone does a good job of it, but I really try to block shots and play physical,” said Spacek. “Some on the team need to score goals, and some have to block the shots.”
Spacek, a rookie who’s still looking for his first professional point, is +1 on the season. While he’s been in America since the 2011-12 season, Spacek, originally from Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic, has admitted that there is an adjustment from playing in Europe, to playing in North America.
“The biggest difference is that the ice surface is so much bigger in Europe,” explains Spacek. “You don’t have much time to make a decision because guys are right on top of you when you pick your head up.”
The 6’2”, 203 lb. defenseman goes on to explain that the North American style of play leads to being more physical, something Spacek enjoys. Once upon a time ago, the European style of play was all about finesse and wide open hockey, but Spacek says that coaches in the Czech Republic are preaching a more North American style of play, keeping plays simple, playing physical, cycling the puck and playing dump and chase.
His coach, Rich Kromm, spent a season in Sweden himself and agreed that the bigger ice does make a difference, explaining that the smaller ice makes plays develop so quickly, but he thinks Spacek is doing a great job adjusting his game.
“I think Michal has adjusted well to playing at a high level,” said Kromm, “and for him, it’s going to be learning the little things so that he can become a good pro and continue to develop.”
Growing up Spacek played a number of sports as a kid including soccer, tennis, wrestling, and a sport near and dear to his father, basketball. His father was a pro basketball player in the Czech Republic, however, he fell in love with the ice and stuck with hockey. Youth hockey was a much different experience in Europe than it was in the Czech Republic.
“I thought the skills and the brain was better in Czech than in the States but now, coaches here are so smart and they have more schools and more coaches for players to take advantage of.”
Much of the funding received for hockey goes directly to the Czech men’s national team so youth programs receive much less financial support than they do in Canada, USA, and in Russia. While Spacek developed his skills in his birth country, he has really come into his own here in the States. His best season as a junior hockey player came with the Bracebridge Phantoms of the GMHL, where he scored 32 goals and 44 assists for a total of 76 points in only 41 games. That season, combined with his work ethic in the preseason led to Coach Kromm wanting to retain the young defenseman.
“What Michal showed was a good understanding of the game,” said Kromm. “His reads are always good and he knows when to step up and play more physical. He works extremely hard and understands the game well. We liked the way he competed and now that he’s playing a lot more minutes I’ve seen a steady improvements from him everyday.”
Spacek is always in the weight room and always skating hard in practice. He utilizes Coach Kromm and has an invitation to chat with his defensive partner anytime.
“He’s a young guy trying to make a name for himself in his first professional year,” said Spacek’s current defensive partner Nathan Deck. “He’s keeping it simple and playing his game. I can help him with whatever he needs and he knows he can come talk to me. Right now I think it’s a good fit for the two of us.”
Getting better everyday is what motivates Spacek. His family haven’t seen him play in years, and since they could not afford to send him to the fanciest hockey programs in the Czech Republic, Spacek has lived on his own since the age of 14, pursuing his dream of playing in the NHL.
“Hopefully this isn’t the highest level I get to and I’m trying get better and gain experience,” said Spacek. “I hope one day I can afford to bring my family here so they can see me play because they haven’t seen me play in years.”
With that motivation, it will only be a matter of time before Michal Spacek can bring his family to America.
His favorite players are Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky
Favorite city to visit in Czech is a tie between Plzen and Prague
His favorite soccer team is FC Viktoria Plzen :
“They played a big game against Bayern Munich and lost 0-1 at home, which is really big,” explains Spacek. “Bayern spends a lot of money and I think in a few years Plzen will make it big.” Spacek, who roomed with Kirill Kabanov, could actually understand Russian but not speak it. Kabanov couldn’t speak Czech, but could comprehend it as well. The two would communicate in their native tongues and somehow understand each other. Of course the two never did this in the locker room because that would be rude!