Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fists to Match 'Steel Heart'

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It’s a long way from Ostrava, Czech Republic to the NHL but Adam Polasek knew that’s the road he wanted to travel.

“My dream was always the NHL.” Polasek states, as if there was ever a question about it.
Ostrava sits at the confluence of four major rivers, the second largest city in the Czech Republic next to Prague. It is a heavily industrialized area that during the years of Communist rule was dubbed “Steel Heart of the Republic”. It’s a coal mining town on the Czech-Poland border (one of the most polluted in the European Union) and is not exempt from the current global economic climate; many of the plants are shutting down. Of late Ostrava is better known for exporting big NHL defenseman than coal: Marek Malik, Roman Polak and Filip Kuba to name a few. The average height and weight of the trio is 6’3”, 228 Lb.
Unfortunately Ostrava’s hockey program allows gifted youth to either dominate a watered down Czech junior program or play reduced minutes in the men’s league, so when Adam landed in Fargo, ND for the 2009 IIHF World Under 18 Tournament to play amongst his true peers he knew he’d found a better path to his ultimate goal.
“I didn’t believe the first time but after the World Junior Under-18 in Fargo I had a couple meetings with scouts from the NHL. I started to believe that there was a real interest (in me) and decided to go to Canada.”
Adam soon landed in the QMJHL playing for the PEI Rocket.  Prince Edward Island, ‘the Garden of the Gulf’ is a long ways from Ostrava, not just in distance but surroundings also.  It may have been hard for a kid from an industrial Eastern European town to adapt to the wide-open landscape of Maritime Canada but it didn’t take long for his game to adjust to the new league.
“Here in Canada there’s a lot more scouts and people who care about your future and take care of you.”
Adam finished the 2009-10 season with 41 points in 66 games. His offense hadn’t fallen off as he transitioned to North American ice, and at 6’3”, 210 Lb. he welcomed the increased physicality and posted 91 PIM on his way to being selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks.
Adam played one more year in PEI before joining the professional ranks. Once he dawned the green and blue of the Canuck’s it didn’t take him long to get noticed. Down 7-1 against a power-house Oiler squad in the 2011 Rookie Tournament Adam decided to do something he’d done only twice in his QMJHL career, fight.
Off a draw in his own zone Adam Polasek dropped the mitts with one of the Western Hockey League’s toughest combatants, Oiler prospect Colten Teubert. While Teubert, the experienced pugilist, got the jump on Adam it was the Czech defender that delivered a knock-out punch to the jaw of the young Oiler defenseman. It is about as clean as a blow can land amidst the elbow pads, shoulder pads, helmets, visors and jerseys that obstruct the space between hockey brawlers, and it was an absolute hay-maker.
Following the play the camera panned from a bleary-eyed Teubert, wiping blood from his face and straining his neck while adjusting his aching jaw, to Canucks’ prospect team coach Craig MacTavish and focused on him for an extended period of time as he stood on the bench mouth agape, eyes looking at nothing in particular, awestruck by what he just witnessed.
“He (MacTavish) was a little surprised but I was surprised also.” Adam laughs. “I know the guy after had a concussion and a broken nose, so ya, it was a pretty good punch.”
“I’m not a really big fighter or something like that, it just happened. The score was 7-1 and we had nothing to lose. I saw him, a big tough guy, so I fought him. Last year in the Quebec league I fought just twice.”
Polasek now plays for MacTavish in Chicago with the AHL Wolves. Through the first ten games of the season he’s set up a couple goals and is a plus-2. He hasn’t made another foray in to fist-to-cuffs but he does still use his physical gifts to his benefit.
He’s paired up with slick puck-mover Sebastian Erixon on a young Wolves’ defense corpse that features Chris Tanev, Yann Sauve and Kevin Connauton, all three played last year when the Canucks’ AHL affiliate was the Manitoba Moose.
“I think Yann and Kevin, they have already one year in pro, so all the questions I have or for help I’m going to ask them. They’re helping me a lot. They know what I should expect and what I should be prepared for.”
“I’ve already set up all the stuff outside of hockey, living and stuff. Now I’m in my routine and everyday I’m going to the rink, practicing; it’s starting to feel like any normal season.”

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1 comment:

  1. Confused, is this an interview you did with him or have you taken quotes from another interview? Needs an intro.