Friday, July 2, 2010

Zbynek Michalek Interview

Thanks to Czech translator Tomas Jandik for translating [this] interview into English about new Penguin Zbynek Michalek and what he thinks about being a Pittsburgh Penguin. Enjoy.

Did you say yes to Pittsburgh boss right away?

I had my agent on the other line, and my wife was on Skype. All of us were talking about that; I have to consider my family – after all, we will be moving. I took some time to think about it. But it did not take long. {smiles}

What’s in your head right now?

I am full of joy. I am very delighted that Pittsburgh cared about me this much. To play for a team that sits on the top of the standings. Such chances don’t come very often. I gladly took advantage of it, I am very excited. Even though on the other hand I am sorry to leave Phoenix, where they gave me the chance to play in the NHL and to mature as far as hockey goes. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of hockey.

Did they try to come to an agreement with you prior to July 1?

We were negotiating hard during the last several days; they wanted to sign me. I wanted the same, but it did not work out at the end. I preferred security, and at the end the money was not that big of an issue. The Phoenix offer was good as well, but I was discouraged by the uncertainties regarding the team ownership; nobody knows what will happen. So I went for something more stable.

You had to be pleased by the fact that the new employer called just a minute after the battle for the new players started.

Definitely. Especially now that the competition is so high.

What do you think about the contract conditions Pittsburgh offered? Five years for $20 mil, that’s a nice prize.

I am very satisfied. Especially considering what I had to go through… I did not get drafted, everything in my career was the results of hard work and battles; I wandered through the minors, people were questioning me why I do these things, telling me that it’s not worth it. So this is a giant personal satisfaction for me; and I am glad for all the people that were with me the whole time.

The Penguins got rid of Sergei Gonchar, the elite offensive D-man. The overseas media write that you come as his replacement – but you are a completely different type [of a player], aren’t you?

According to what the GM said, they want to particularly improve the defensive play of the team, so they strictly hired me as a defensive D-man. It’s true that I am a different type [from Gonchar], so I won’t play the way he does. I would not be able to. I will have different, defense-related role, which is what I like and what I am used to.

In the NHL, you have been considered among the best defensive D-men; you excelled in those “unnoticeable” categories such as blocked shots… Do you see this as reward of activities like that?

Yes. I have never been in the spotlight, pretty much nobody knows about Phoenix. Luckily the other teams have scouts in the whole league who are knowledgeable, and so I got noticed. {smiles}. They rewarded my game. I know I am no superstar; I will never excel because of some stunning technique or skating. I play my game, with my heart, always full-force, and I play for the team. I am glad that somebody rewarded it. I will try to continue showing the same effort.

Your last Phoenix contract was for $1.5 mil, now it will be $4 mil per year. What a change, right?

I take it as appreciation of my work. Of course, it is also important that I can take care of my family for pretty much the rest of my life, if I don’t throw away money excessively. It is indeed a large sum of money especially realizing where I was 10 years ago, where I grew up with my family… So to have that money? It is something unreal, if somebody told me that those 10 years ago, I’d consider him a fool. It is a huge reward, I almost can’t believe it. I was in the seventh heaven; I did not believe somebody would offer me money like that. It feels like a dream.

A new chapter of your career awaits you. Do you agree?

You could say that, yes. Once again I will experience something different; I will be under a stronger pressure. But I am not afraid of that. I know that I will have to fight through it all by myself; the contract alone does not mean anything. There were a lot of people with good contracts who crashed. I know that I will have to continue performing on the level that is expected from me. Otherwise it would be a short process; there is such competition in the NHL that there would be 5-6 other players waiting for my roster spot. So I have to earn it thanks to my good performance. Nothing else will help me. I know that I am starting from the beginning; I will have to persuade everybody again.

Great interview. Welcome Zbynek.

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