Svatos’ Frustration Mounting

By Jeff Bromley
There are times when a hockey player has to sit on the sidelines instead of playing the game they love. Injuries, suspensions or the dreaded
‘healthy scratch’ keeping them out of the line-up are all the usual reasons for a player not in the game. Kootenay ICE European forward Marek
Svatos is experiencing that feeling, only not because of any of the aforementioned reasons.

The slick Slovakian center, who has only played in eleven of the twenty-six ICE contests so far this season and still occupies the seventh spot
on team scoring with sixteen points, is sitting on the sidelines for another reason, one he has little control over – bureaucratic hockey wrangling.
In order for any European hockey player to play in the North American junior leagues, a release from that players’ home country governing
hockey body or former hockey club must be obtained by the team he plays for. In Svatos’ case, the issue boils down to a contract he signed
with a Slovakian professional club before knowing he was coming to Canada and the Kootenay ICE. Svatos, who is eligible for the 2001 NHL
Draft in Sunrise, Florida is dying to get back on the ice. “I am frustrated by not being able to play,” said the native of Slovakia through teammate
Zdenek Blatny, who acted as interpreter for the interview. “I’m a little mad at my old team in Slovakia, but it’s my own fault too, I signed the
contract.” Marek is also concerned that the games missed might have somewhat of a negative affect in the possibility of being drafted by an
NHL club this June. “I’m not playing, the scouts can’t see me, it makes it hard to be drafted, but there are lots of games (left in the season) and
hopefully I will play soon,” said Svatos through his compatriot, Zdenek Blatny. Conditioning and getting back into game shape when Svatos is
eventually cleared for play doesn’t concern the speedy Slovakian who has been pulling double duty in the gym and practicing hard. “I just want
to play and I’ll be ready,” said Svatos.

The Kootenay ICE thought that wouldn’t be as difficult as peace in the middle east when Svatos arrived in Cranbrook in mid-August. “It
frustrating more for Marek than anyone, the hockey team will survive though this (ordeal), said ICE Director of Hockey Operations Bob Tory.
“He’s young and he’d like to play but it’s tough to practice every day. He’s kept his spirits up and worked hard.”

Last week it appeared that the deal to release Svatos to the ICE officially would be done as ICE Director of Hockey Operations Bob Tory had
received verbal permission but still hadn’t seen anything on paper. “We in the process now that we have an agent in Slovakia that’s working on
our behalf to try and get his release. There were some documents that we received today that Marek had to return. We’re hoping that we hear
something back as early as Friday (Nov. 23) but you can’t count on that.”

The language barrier, both spoken and written has proved to be cumbersome in the ICE trying to obtain Svatos’ release. Add to that fact that
the documents were in Slovakian and only Marek could read them. Contrary to popular belief, the dispute isn’t over the transfer of money, not
yet anyway. “Marek signed a contract over there… what there looking is for a commitment that he’ll come back when he’s done here if he
doesn’t go the NHL, but at the same time you never know where it’s going to lead,” said Tory.

Meanwhile, with Svatos only practicing with the club and fighting boredom from not playing, there is lots of time for him to bone up on his
English skills, which are in improving as Svatos is enrolled in ESL classes at the College of the Rockies international student program.

Quick Hits – The ongoing search for an enforcer for the ICE is once again looking up. ICE D.O.H.O. Bob Tory has brought in 6’2″ 220lb
left-winger Joe Degenstein from the AJHL St. Albert Saints for a three game tryout. The bruising 19-yr-old could be cure for the oft-taken
liberties with the ICE star players . . . Cranbrook native Jordy Dudka is still with the ICE. Although the current Kimberly Dynamiter did not travel
with the ICE on their recent road trip, he still has two of the three game tryout left. Dudka left practice early on Thursday suffering from illness. It
is not known if he was going to be ready for the weekend match-ups against Red Deer and Kamloops.