Czech out the whaler – Martin Cizek

By Ivana Paulova

This summer the Czech Republic was reached by a wave of floods. Several areas near rivers were effected. The town of Beroun lies on a river named Berounka. Berounka was one of the rivers that flooded the most areas and therefore Beroun was faced with a lot of problems. Part of Martin Cizek’s summer practice was cleaning up after the floods. Cizek is Beroun native and his grandparents’ house is near the river bank. Not a happy moment of his life for sure and about 10 days later his flight to Plymouth was booked.

Cizek started to play hockey at the age of 3 in the Beroun’s arena, where he was brought by his father. His father was deciding whether he would let his son to play hockey or soccer because he wanted his kids to be active. Martin’s older brother already played basketball but that did not attract Martin that much. So his father chose hockey, because it was played on a higher level, and also because the arena was near to their house. Cizek Soon learned how to skate, and because of being taller than most of the kids he was put in the defense. Still scoring goals attracted him and these are the origins of his offensive trips. Cizek did not do other sports nor had any other activities and he spent all his free time in the arena. In the 6th grade he got an offer from Sparta, Kladno and Slavia. His parents chose Slavia. Cizek is really glad for their decisions, because he had some good seasons there, but more he had developed to be a stable defenseman of youth national teams. Slavia is known for having good developmental program for youngsters and Cizek is good prove of that.

Martin was in the system of the Czech national selections from the age of 15 when he first dressed himself in the U-16 national team jersey. After one year he continued to play for the U-17 selection and later for the U-18. In those 3 years he missed just 2 events with the national team and it was due to an injury. His cooperation with coaches Kopriva and Marek was a happy one. Martin is not a troublemaker, he is the type of player who gratefully listens to the coaches instructions and tactical advice. He had consistent good performance on all the tournaments of the national team mainly on the Viking Cup and in Russia on the tournament in February 2002. His statistics from the U-16 selection to the U-18 selection says that he played 27 games where he scored 5 points (3+2). During the 3 year long period he most enjoyed playing with Marin Vagner. On the Viking Cup he was paired up with Martin Linhart and on the WJC with Michal Barinka. He does not have any special requirements on the other defenseman only that they need to be able to compromise with each other, liked he did with Jiri Drtina in Slavia.

To play in the national selection was why Cizek did not leave to play in the CHL earlier. He wanted to play for his country but that would not be possible when he would play in the CHL. Definitely not during the season only maybe at the U-18 World Junior Championship. His main goal was always to play well and so to be able to represent his country, and the target was to play at the U-18 WJC. After the U-18 WJC which was the peak of the 3 years long preparation Cizek would not have any new motivation in the Czech Republic and so the immediate decision was to try his luck oversees. He had no preferences for the league or the team. Any new experience is beneficial.

Cizek did not have a season where he would totally fail. He kept his stable performance in the midgets as well as in the juniors. One of his biggest successes was a title of the Champion of the midget Extraleague 2 years ago. The more recent success is the bronze medal from the U-18 WJC 2002 in Slovakia. But as he is always trying to stress the greatest success and pride for him is to play for the national team. There was no real disappointment that Cizek faced in his career neither was he ever seriously injured. Some confusion in his head was caused during 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Many experts predicted Cizek to be picked in 4th and the latest in the 6th round but he waited till the 9th round to be chosen as 271 over all by Buffalo Sabres. Cizek said earlier that if he would be picked at all then it would be great honor for him. He even experienced the atmosphere of the Sabres’ camp which was good for him because he could clearly see where are his main weaknesses and which are his stronger skills.

It is known about Martin Cizek that he is not a frequent scorer. In his second season in the midgets (2000/01) he played 31 games and had 16 points (11+5) and he also played as an underage for the juniors that season in 22 games gaining 8 points (3+5). In season 2001/02 in juniors he played 42 games and had 8 points for 2 goals and 6 assists. But the other defenders usually can be active in the offense while Cizek takes care of the defensive duties well. Example is his cooperation with Drtina in Slavia or with Barinka on the U-18 WJC 2002. Still Martin regards himself more as a offensive defenseman. Cizek relies on his good skating ability and quite accurate outlet pass. The advantage is his good timing and reading of plays. On the other hand he should shoot more and improve his shot so it is more accurate. Cizek prefers to pass the puck instead. The biggest drawback in his play is the unwillingness to throw his body around more. This should be worked on in Plymouth as it is inevitable part of the game. Cizek is not scared to play aggressively but it was not needed as much in the Czech junior Extraleague so he was not in the habit of going around and hitting everyone. Even though his frame enables him to do so, he inevitably needs to make him self tougher. He can also work on the competitiveness and put his heart in the game more.

He is very calm and easy going person. But while on the ice he cannot get disturbed by anything, he is fully concentrated. When he gets angry he does not let it out on the ice he keeps on playing responsibly for the team. Off the ice he is a friendly guy. When not playing hockey, as well as other players, he relaxes. He likes to play computer games or play some other sport. In the summer he plays basketball with his brother and when he has time he is working out. Cizek was going to a high school in Beroun but after finishing his first year (freshmen year) the family decision was that he stopped going to school so that he could concentrate only on hockey.
His father and grandfather were following his hockey career closely and helping him a lot by driving him to Prague everyday. Later he was going back and forth from Beroun to Prague everyday by bus. It got better when he stopped going to school because when he came to Prague in morning he spent the whole day practicing both on the ice and in the gym and in the evening he went back to Beroun. He had nothing else to worry about.

His family was frequently coming to Slavia to see him play. They hope he will go far as his hockey career is regarded. The biggest critique in Cizek’s family is his mother and the one who helped little Martin the most in his beginnings was his father. He is very thankful to his parents. Hopefully their care will later reflect in his career. Nothing is lost because hard work always brings the fruits, it just takes time. Martin Cizek sure has the qualities and has the chance of being regular NHL blueliner in few years time. Just wait and see.