Ondrej Palat returned to the Czech Republic on Tuesday with his wife and daughter. The next morning, he joined the national team in Zlin and is expected to play in the Carlson Hockey Games in Brno, the last part of the Euro Hockey Tour and the last games before the World Championship. Václav Jáchim of Hokej.cz talked to him about this season in the NHL and his first start at the Worlds. [Hokej.cz]
V.J.: Do you take these national team games as some kind of patch after the unsuccessful ending of the season?
Palat: I’m happy that I got a chance to play for the national team. Maybe it’ll help me to feel better. The regular season was really, really great. But the playoffs didn’t go very well.
V.J.: How did you adapt to this disappointment? The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Presidents’ Trophy; no one expected early elimination.
Palat: We’re still adapting. I have to say that the Jackets played excellent. Too bad we lost that first game after having a 3-0 lead during the second period. But then we made some mistakes and they converted all their chances. Something happened to us.
Palat: I’m not sure because they’re playing against the Boston Bruins and I’m hoping David Pastrnak and David Krejci get as far as possible in the playoffs. I cannot say that I’m rooting for the Blue Jackets. But they deserved to win against us. I’m wishing them luck.
V.J.: It’s certainly worthless to talk about the atmosphere in the team after elimination.
Palat: Yes, it was awful. We still couldn’t believe it. Even when we were losing 0-2 in the series, we had hopes to turn it around. But they immediately scored two goals during the third game and we lost.
V.J.: Could one of the reasons of failure be the fact that you didn’t go through some big slumps during the regular season?
Palat: Yes, we didn’t have any recessions or slumps, that’s true. Unfortunately, it happened in the playoffs and we couldn’t get out of it. This is sport, it happens.
V.J.: Do you have at least some good memories about the regular season?
Palat: Yes, it was fun. We did well, played great hockey. We won a lot of games. So the atmosphere was really amazing. But the playoffs were such a pity.
V.J.: When was the last time you’ve been on the ice before heading to Czech Republic?
Palat: I practiced in Tampa on Monday. We’ve been skating with some guys who’re going to play for Canada or USA at the World Championship. We tried to keep fit together.
V.J.: Nikita Kucherov has also confirmed his participation at the Worlds and the Carlson Hockey Games. Are you looking forward to playing against him?
Palat: Yeah, I need to text him. It’s great that such stars will play in Brno. Ovechkin and other guys from the NHL are coming too.
V.J.: When did they offer you to play for the national team?
Palat: The day after elimination Robert Reichel and Milos Riha approached me. I said immediately that I would be very happy to play.
V.J.: What do you think about the current team for Czech Republic?
Palat: I think we have a good team. But other countries also have great teams, so it would be very hard. Anyway, we’re looking forward to the atmosphere in Bratislava, it’s going to be amazing.
V.J.: You have already played at the Olympic Games and at the World Cup, but this is your first World Championship. I suppose you are very happy that the tournament is held in Slovakia.
Palat: I’m glad I got this chance. Playing in Slovakia is almost like playing at home. There are also a lot of guys I haven’t played with since U18 or U20 teams, so i’m looking forward to it.
V.J.: The Czech National Team have been waiting for World Championship medals since 2012. Do you think it’s time to change things?
Palat: Sure, it’s my dream.
Igor, our Czech and Russian translator, will be attending and writing about the World Championship games in the Czech Republic.