David Krejci is the lone native of the Czech Republic on this year's Bruins squad, but it's veteran Mark Recchi who is the only Boston skater to have played in an NHL game in Prague.
Recchi played in Prague just two years ago, when he was with Tampa Bay and the Lightning opened the 2008-09 season with a two-game set with the New York Rangers. That gives Recchi an advantage over his teammates in knowing what to expect this week, but he is confident this trip will go a little better than his first European excursion.
"I think it's set up better for us this time," said Recchi, whose Lightning lost both games to New York by identical 2-1 scores. "We were all over the map when I was with Tampa. We were never really in Prague. We were everywhere but. We were there for a couple days, leave for a couple days, come back, leave. It was a bit of a mess.
"The Bruins have set it up very well," added Recchi. "We're in Northern Ireland for four days, then we're in Prague the rest of the time, except for one exhibition game, which is only an hour away. I think it's set up well and I think this is going to be a great experience for the guys."
The hectic nature of Tampa Bay's itinerary in 2008 kept Recchi from being able to enjoy many of the sights in Prague, but that's something he plans to rectify on this trip.
"We're going to have some opportunities to do some [sight-seeing]," said Recchi. "We have some days. Obviously it's a business trip, but still it will be nice to tour around a bit and learn about each country. It'll be fun."
The only issue is figuring out who will serve as his tour guide. Recchi had several Czech teammates on the Lightning to help in that regard, even if they had precious little time to take advantage of their knowledge.
"We had a couple of guys from over there – [Vinny] Prospal was from there and David Koci – so that definitely helps," said Recchi. "They helped out a lot, showed us around. But we weren't in one spot long enough to really enjoy the city. That's the nice thing about this trip, we're going to be there long enough to really enjoy both places [Belfast and Prague]."
This year, Krejci is the only Czech native on the Bruins' roster, but he hails from Sternberk, a city well outside of Prague, and has insisted throughout camp that he knows little about what to see or do in Prague. Fortunately, being the veteran he is, Recchi already has a backup plan in place.
"I know Tuukka [Rask] went on a recon mission this summer," said Recchi. "He spent some time there, so maybe he'll be our guide."
From his last trip, Recchi knows the biggest challenge to getting around Prague will just be finding some time alone, as the Czech fans can get a little excited about their rare chances to see NHLers up close.
"It's a pretty big deal," said Recchi. "The reaction was great over there. We had a lot of fun. The NHL is big over there. Hockey is big in general. So it's kind of neat being there."
Coming back home across the time zones and resuming the NHL schedule while battling jet lag back in North America won't be as enjoyable, but Recchi isn't too worried about the toll the travel will take on the Bruins.
"We've got five or six days after we get back, that's plenty of time," said Recchi. "We had seven or eight after we came back with Tampa and it was almost too long. We'll take a few days, but let's not be so ridiculous."
Having done it once already, Recchi knows the travel to and from Europe isn't too bad, certainly not compared to his midseason trip to Nagano with Team Canada for the 1998 Olympics.
"When I went over to Japan it was a 12-hour difference," said Recchi. "That was tough when you came back. But this will be fine. Guys know how to get the proper rest. We have enough guys who travel back and forth from Europe so they can give you tips and tell you how to find time to get sleep when you need it."
Recchi is even planning more trips to Europe, though he intends to make his next destination a little further south, where he can explore his Italian heritage once he finally hangs up his skates.
"That's for when I'm done playing," said Recchi of his plans to travel to Italy. "I'll spend lots of time over there then."
(Photo courtesy of Naoko Funayama)
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