According to a story that was published last Thursday on LifeSports.ru, three Czech players were dismissed from the Czech Republic National Under-18 Team during the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The reason? Prospects Tomas Kvapil, Jaroslav Pavelka and Mateja Beran were caught smoking and drinking in their hotel room after their team’s 3-2 victory over rival Russia. The prospects, “while in the heat of a fun moment” also smashed the room they were staying at in the team hotel.
In an interview after their dismissal, one of the players blamed the influence of a certain DC area sex symbol:
“I don’t understand why we were sent home. On the web, I saw Alex Semin and other Russian stars smoking during the World Championships in Germany. And nothing came of it.”
Really? This again?
Jaroslav Holik (a famous Czech coach and father of Stanley Cup Champion Bobby Holik) as well as teammates of the “drinking trio” did not support the decision. “If each of the guys smoked a cigarette and drank one bottle of beer,” Holik said, “It’s not enough reason enough to send them home. They’re still 18!”
The legal drinking and smoking age in Czech Republic is in fact 18, but two of the players, Kvapil and Pavelka, are 17 according to eliteprospects.com. That was more than enough for Bench Boss Jiri Scholz to cut ties, stating that “such actions undermine the whole system.”
If you consider the prospects’ offense with a Soviet attitude, what they’ve done is reprehensible. In the USSR, sportsmen are expected to live in such a way to be at their bests. It’s different in the west; if you maximize your talent and play at your best all the time, no one cares how you live. This may explain the difference of opinion here.
And since you asked, we still don’t see what the big deal is. Alex Semin, a professional athlete at the highest level, is eminently responsible for his own well-being. A little bit of vice is fine, and it’s not like he can’t pass his fitness test. Children at a lower level of the sport and breaking the law don’t enjoy those same allowances.
What this story does prove, however, is that NHL players are influential across the world. For good reasons or silly ones, they are under the microscope. Alex Semin is a role model, and he’ll continue to get stuck with stories like this for a long time to come. Let’s just promise ourselves to lie down until it goes away.