As proven many times before, you don’t have to have hockey in your
genes to become a successful hockey player. It is often the case that
young prospects have their fathers involved in hockey in some way, but sons
of other professional athletes also sometimes blossom into promising
players. Fro example 2004 eligible forward Petr Pohl is a son of a former
tennis player, but this will be a story about Marek Curilla, a center
with the Kladno junior team.
As a son of an elite league soccer player, Marek Curilla was more
likely to chase the ball on the grass field instead of chasing the puck in
the hockey arena. When he was a small kid he liked both sports, soccer
because of his father and hockey because of his grandfather and mother.
Curilla’s grandfather was an avid hockey fan, who didn’t miss any
opportunity to play the game with his friends. No wonder that he wanted to
bring his grandson to the game also. When Curilla was four years old, he
was already a member of the famed developmental system in his native
city Kladno, Czech Republic.
As a kid gifted for sports, he established himself as one of the most
impressive kids on the Kladno entry level team. Curilla emerged as Head coach Resatko’s quickest student. He developed a smooth stride, which
enabled him to outskate most of the opponents and regularly get on the
scoresheet. So it came that he was slotted to play forward and coach
Resatko felt the center position will fit Curilla the best. Already from that
time he wore the number 14 on his back, the one he wears still.
From the 1st grade was Marek Curilla, nicknamed ‘Curi’ from his surname
or ‘Maro’ from his first name, also voted captain of his team. Being
six years old, he had two seasons of hockey under his belt and was eager
to play also some other sport besides hockey.
“Soccer was the
obvious choice, I liked it a lot and from the first grade I began to play
both organized soccer and hockey.”
Sports took nearly all of Curilla’s
free time, he had hardly time for something else than school, hockey
and soccer. But his conditioning benefitted from this attitude. Under
head coach Jiri Rejtar Curilla made strides in improving his skill
and stamina. He didn’t worry about the defensive play a lot, he had fun
with scoring goals and was more one-dimensional at that time.
At the time when coach Tomas Simacek took over the Kladno 6th grade
team, Curilla’s development took a sharp upward path. “Coach Simacek
was probably the best I ever experienced. He was working with me a lot,
giving me many tips how to upgrade on my downsides and make use of my
strengths.” This paid off for the first time at the Vagner Cup
tournament of the 6th grade teams, played in Kladno. Marek Curilla took home
the trophy for the Best Forward and was able to it again next year with
the 7th grade team. This time he added to this honor also the Top
Goalscorer trophy as his offensive output topped the tournament’s forwards.
He admires the play of Washington Capitals’ star winger Jaromir Jagr
and Ottawa Senators’ forward Martin Havlat. In the Czech senior
Extraleague he tries to take the best from the Kladno Slovak import Stanislav
His strong performance for the 8th grade team of Kladno was noticed
also by already Kladno midget coaches Zdenek Sindler and Petr Taticek.
They gave Curilla a shot at the summer camp already with the midget team.
He proved that he is able to lift his play enough to succeed in the
midget Extraleague as an underager and managed to maintain his position on
the team all season long. He was sent down to the 9th grade team only
occasionally, but still grabbed the Top Goalscorer award at a tournament
of 9th grade teams, played in the Slavia Praha arena.
He spent the
2000-2001 season with learning the ropes and bounds of the midget
Extraleague. He had holes mostly in his defensive play, which visible also
in his plus/minus. Marek Curilla played 42 games with the Kladno midgets in
2000-2001, scoring 16 points for 6 goals and 10 assists, -16 and
20 PIMs. After that season he realized that he can’t go on with playing
organized soccer and after leaving the SK Kladno soccer team he began
to focus fully on hockey.
The next year, 2001-2002, saw Marek Curilla record a huge leap in his
offensive output and an increasing his role on the team. Kladno didn’t
have many noticeable prospects playing for the midget team and Curilla
had to emerge as a leader. He was also voted captain of the team thanks
to his considerable leadership skills. Kladno midgets failed to qualify
for postseason play, but Curilla took the bull at the horns and
recorded exactly one point per game average. In 45 games for the Kladno
midgets in 2001-2002 Curilla amassed 45 points for 20 goals and 25 assists
to go along with a +11 and 24 PIMs.
His performance at the evaluation camp of the new Czech Under-16 team
earned him a debut against international competition. It took place in a
three-game series against the Under-16 team of Slovakia in August,
2001, and Curilla scored his first international point there, a goal.
He missed the next two tournaments, but was on the roster for the main
event of the Under-16 team schedule, the Four Nations Tournament,
played in Praha, Czech Republic, in February, 2002. An appearance in a
three-game series against the Under-16 team of Switzerland rounded out
Curilla’s first international season’s numbers at 9 games played, 3 points
for 3 goals, an even plus/minus and 6 PIMs.
In 2002-2003 Kladno midgets declared a championship run. The team was
boosted by the best 9th grade eligible players and formed a strong core
of skilled players. But Marek Curilla played only the first month of
the schedule for the midget squad. He had nothing to prove against
players of his same age and Kladno juniors head coach Jaromir Sindel gave
Curilla a try at the junior level as an underager. Curilla had relatively
a smooth transition as the more experienced players on the Kladno
junior team helped him to overcome the usual adjustment trouble. Curilla
also posted adequate numbers for the junior team, appearing in 30 games
and registering 10 points for 4 goals and 6 assists along with 26
For the playoffs was Curilla back with the Kladno midget team, despite
battling a groin injury. Backstopped by 2005 eligible netminder Jakub
Lev, Kladno midget fought their way into the midget Extraleague finals
against the underdog Vsetin team. But Vsetin still was capable of taking
Kladno to five games in the best-of-five series before Kladno captain
Matej Kos could hoist the championship trophy over his head. Prior to
winning the midget Extraleague championship title, Marek Curilla dressed
out for 25 midget games in 2002-2003, notching 19 points for 9 goals
and 10 assists with 12 PIMs.
“The championship title is the biggest
success of my career, no doubt about it. It was a great experience, every
player on the team did his best to achieve this goal and finally we
made the dream reality.”
Marek Curilla didn’t see much playing time with the Czech Under-17 team
in 2002-2003. He took part in the Five Nations Tournament, played in
the Czech Republic in August 2002, posting 2 assists.
His leadership skills were honored again this season as Curilla was
picked alternate captain of the Kladno juniors, despite playing his first
full campaign in the junior Extraleague. He sees playing time mostly on
the second or third line of the Jaromir Sindel’s squad and is posting
solid, but unspectacular numbers. Curilla saw action in 28 games so far,
scoring 18 points for 8 goals and 10 assists, an even +/- and 14 PIMs.
“My goal for this season is to reach the ponit-per-game average
again, this time on the junior team. We have a good team, I especially like
to play with (Buffalo Sabres’ draftee) Martin Cizek and Richard Divis,
they are both very good players. And playing the debut in the senior
Extraleague would be great, too.”
In November he appeared on the international stage again. After being
scratched from the World Junior Cup team, Marek Curilla was invited to
the Five Nations Tournament, played in Prievidza, Slovakia. At this
event he went scoreless.
Marek Curilla is a swift skater who can accelerate quickly and has above-average agility. He uses his speed
to forecheck aggressively and force the opposing forwards to make
mistakes. A very skilled center, Curilla handles the puck well with his soft
hands. He has good vision and an adequate hockey
sense. Curilla uses his strong stickhandling to maneuver in tight areas,
but could be more effective in heavy traffic. At 5’10”, 165 lbs. he
needs to bulk up not to be pushed around by hulking defensemen, who can
bring him out of the scoring lanes. Curilla doesn’t play a tough style
and relies more on his finesse than on toughness. He needs to improve on
his defensive play, which is only average. Curilla could be more
effective in the offensive zone given his strong skill set and sometimes
streaky scoring. He is a talented player, but has to play tougher and put
the intangibles together if he ever wants to succeed in North American
Marek Curilla has hardly any free time left. He attends the secondary
school for sports in Kladno, where he is about to graduate in two years.
Curilla has also to take care of his younger sister, who is just 18 months old. But when he has some spare time, in which he isn’t playing
hockey or studying, then he meets his friends for a game of soccer, golf,
or tennis. These are his favorite sports besides hockey. Culture isn’t
an unknown word for him, as he never misses any good musical played
near his hometown.
“I like musicals a lot. I watched Dracula and Krysar
and both are really great.”
Curilla is a fan of disco music and he
never listens to rock music, which isn’t a style he would like. When it
comes to his eating habits, he eats everything except of broccoli and dill sauce. To drink he prefers
multivitamin drinks. He is a fan of the Pittsburgh
Penguins because of the strong Czech presence on the Penguins team in the
He isn’t a player who would be very superstitious.
“I just use the
same warmup before each game. And before the opening faceoff I never
forget to kiss the silver chain on my neck.”
Represented by agent Josef Machala, Marek Curilla isn’t rushing to the
CHL. “I would like to stay in Europe for my junior career. I would
consider playing in the CHL only if I would see that there is no other
Curilla is ranked 24th among Czech skaters by the
Central Scouting Bureau’s Preliminary Ranking. He has an outside shot to
be drafted in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but could succeed in European
hockey at least.
“The NHL is my biggest dream, of course. But I would
also like to have the chance to play in the Czech, Swedish or Finnish
senior elite leagues.”