This year’s World Junior Championship was not the most successful one for the Czech national selection. In fact the Czech team was close to reaching the worst result in the whole history of Czech and Czechoslovak hockey. Still there were some who proved to be excellent players and some who really surprised. Ales Hemsky proved he has the potential to become one of the stars of the NHL and Edmonton will not be disappointed. Another of last year’s first round pick- Jiri Novotny- showed good movement and presented himself as not being afraid of a physical game. The 2002 potential top ten draft pick Jiri Hudler was one of the most closely scouted players on the WJC but he could cope with the pressure easily. Even on the international scene he was creative and showed his excellent stickhandling abilities. As many experts pointed out arguably the best Czech player on the WJC was Miloslav Horava.
Horava is a player with a rich and interesting history. He was born on 27th October 1982 in the Czech town of Rakovnik as the son of national selection defender and player of Kladno, Miloslav Horava senior. Horava senior was awarded as the best defender on the 1980 WJC and later joined the senior national selection and played on the Olympic Games. This suggests that Milos was already predetermined to become a hockey player. Surprisingly the truth is very different. Milos’ life seemed nothing like the life of future hockey star. He was never forced to play hockey or taken to a hockey rink at an early age. In 1989 Horava senior received an offer from the New York Rangers. So at the age of 7 Milos moved to the United States. The family lived in a suburb of the NYC where Milos started to go to school. In his free time he played soccer. Life there was ok but Horava senior did not get as much playing time with the Rangers as he would have liked. After 3 seasons with the Rangers, Horava senior was given an opportunity to play for MoDo Hockey, a Swedish team. In Ornskoldsvik Milos and his younger brother Petr did not have much to do and so their dad asked them to try to play hockey.
Sweden was where Milos was taught all the hockey basics. But it was quite a late start for who was already 9 years old. At the same time Milos was going to school and so could speak Czech, English and Swedish perfectly. Horava senior played only 3 seasons for MoDo and after that the whole family decided it would be better to go back to the Czech Republic. They moved back to Kladno while Horava senior played in several teams in several places such as in Slavia Praha, Kralupy, Karlovy Vary, Zvolen (Slovakia), Litvinov. The rest of his family stayed in Kladno. Milos played for PZ Kladno the rival of HC Poldi Kladno (currently named HC Vagnerplast Kladno). At the same time Milos was going to an Anglo-American school in Kladno. A busy child, then at the age of 14 he started to go to a hockey school and so changed the teams and began playing for HC Kladno. It was there that he met his great friend Tomas Plekanec.
But this was not the end of travelling. 2 seasons later Milos was given a opportunity to go back to MoDo. Milos’ dad had set up everything and the decision was not that hard. Milos says: “Dad told me to go to Sweden because it would teach me more than if I would have stayed here. Also being alone there would make me more responsible. Either way I could go back any time”. Going to known environment was not as easy as it would appear to be. The first 2 months were tough. Milos had problems recalling words but with time he got used to it again. He went to school at the same time which was not a problem because it was a hockey high school with a schedule specially adjusted for combining hockey and studies. Also living in a flat alone was an experience of its own. Milos played well in MoDo, he was one of the best players there scoring goals and passing equally well. He started playing in the U-18 league moving to U-20 without troubles. In season 2000/01 Milos played 18 games and gained 27 points for 17 goals and 10 assists, he had 32 plus points and 12 PIM. This all seems a very good option. The question is why do none of the other Czech players choose this way?
Before the start of this season Milos returned to the Czech Republic. He believes he will have a better chance of playing senior category here rather than in Sweden. Still Milos is glad he spent 3 seasons in Sweden: “ Everything I know about hockey is from what I have learned in Sweden. They know how to deal with young players, mainly while working on strength”. He is probably the right person to say that because for his age he is an extremely strong player, thanks mainly to his powerful legs.
After returning Milos was given a chance to practice with the Extraleague team of HC Vagnerplast Kladno while his dad was the assistant coach there. They started at the beginning of May with the conditional exercises. In May Milos also received an invitation to the first U-20 national selection training camp. Before the U-20 selection he was member of U-16 selection. To the U-17 events he was not nominated. Season later he took part in all the U-18 events including the unsuccessful World Championship in Switzerland where Czech team ended on the 6th spot which was the worst result in the Czech and infact whole Czechoslovakian hockey history.
Soon before the start of the season Milos was sent from Kladno to Beroun to play in the second highest league in the Czech republic, the 1.CP league. He seemed to be struggling and had problems with adjusting himself to the new style played in Beroun. Milos did not give up and worked as hard as he could even though he stayed scoreless for 13 rounds. Still coaches kept inviting him to the U-20 national selection meetings and tournaments. In the middle of November Kladno’s coaches were changed and the new head coach Jaromir Sindel (a former excellent goalie) took Milos back to Kladno. Being given such a opportunity Milos wanted to prove it was not a bad decision. Playing newly on the position of left wing which was the defensive one in Kladno’s playing system has brought a new challenge to Milos. He started to enjoy his new role and Kladno’s line Horna-Plekanec-Horava became dangerous to all the opponent defenders. Milos’ statistics in the first season back home were: in Beroun- 21 games, 5 points (5+3), 2 minus points, 14 PIM; in Kladno- 31 games, 11 points (8+3), 3 minus points, 22 PIM.
Milos was a member of the Czech junior national team in the World Junior Championship and surprised not only the coaches but the whole audience with his determination. No puck was lost for him and so it is no wonder why this hard working player has joined two excellent technical players Hemsky and Hudler on the first line. Milos finished 4th in the statistics of the Czech team with 2 goals and 3 assists, 1 minus point and 2 PIM.
Returning from the WJC was the new Milos Horava. He was full of self-confidence, has started to score goals and has become one of the key players in Kladno’s Extraleague team. His two main personal goals before the season were to play as much as possible for Kladno and make the junior selection. But personal ambitions were never first in Milos’ list of priorities. He is a team worker, who never emphasizes his own benefit before the good of the team.
Playing defensive wing really suits Milos a lot. Surprisingly he has adopted that position quite easily, perhaps because he is a versatile player who is able to cope with changes. He goes fully concentrated and determinated to each game. Having opportunities but not scoring goals has been disappointing and depressive but Milos had support of coach Sindel and it has proved to be an essential element in Milos’ rise since Christmas. Milos is type of player that is gritty hard working and who takes advantage of his great physical preparedness. The abilities that Milos posses are excellent skating together with hard accurate shot. His technical side is good enough to create him scoring opportunities. In the past few rounds of the Extraleague Milos proved that he is also a smart player who is at the right place at the right time as many of his goals were scored after a rebound. Milos can still work on his stickhandling and be more decisive there is of course always room for improvement. The question is where will Milos play next season. Kladno lost in the relegation series to Liberec and moved down to the 1.CP league where as Liberec will play in the Extraleague. Milos is currently still in Kladno but he still may strengthen the offensive lines of some Extralegue team.
Off the ice Milos is like any other normal teenager. He still goes to school because he wants to graduate and so get the diploma. In his free time he relaxes a lot and listens to music. He is not in a hurry to reach the NHL but it is obviously his dream and final destination to play there. The journey is long and a good deal of luck is needed plus of course natural skills. Milos has shown his determination and also enough luck so wait and see what this quiet friendly player will do.