Tomas Netik – ATP Champion race or Hockey World Championships?

By Ivana Paulova
Czech hockey is presenting another talent. This time it’s Tomas Netik, the undrafted 19 year old player (1982-04-28) of HC Sparta Praha. Many of you will question Sparta once again? Well the reason why many talented players are- or were in Sparta is that because it’s a very good club and it has great teams in all categories and this provides excellent background to all the players. But that doesn’t mean that all players in Sparta possess rare talent. But bare in mind that Tomas Netik isn’t just an ordinary player.

Among other players he is known for his modesty and ever-present positive attitude. He can be considered as a good leader, always giving support to others and making them welcome in the team regardless of whether it’s in Sparta or the national team. He seems to have things sorted out in his mind yet still he is open to new ideas and advises. The main figure in his career as well as personal life is his father a former player and later coach of Sparta now coaching the A team of Nymburg playing 3rd highest league in Czech Republic.

Tomas’ father led his first hockey steps which paradoxically took place at the other Prague stadium which belongs to Sparta’s rival Salvia! He stayed there till the age of 8 and the reason for the change of teams was caused by the fact that Sparta as a club also had a tennis team. Tomas was playing hockey and tennis for Sparta from the age of 8 till the age of 13. This combination worked well in his younger years when he was playing hockey in winter and tennis in summer. He was playing at a high level in both. In tennis he was one of the best in country in his category and under different circumstances I could be writing this article for some ATP site introducing new tennis talent. But after sometime playing both sports turned out to be too demanding and slowly Tomas concentrated on hockey and on-ice practices were in the majority in his weekly schedule. Tomas ended up playing only hockey at professional level and tennis together with other sports just as part of the summer practice. His decision to play hockey was a clever one because it is apparent that he loves hockey and he is an ideal player for collective sports. Now every spring he can’t wait for fall and for the beginning of a new hockey season. In summer he shortens lonely moments by going fishing where he is relaxing. Also till the age of 18 Tomas was going to school and after he successfully graduated he had no other worries than hockey.

Tomas has been continuously invited to youth national teams starting in the U-16 working his way up to the U-20 where he is trying to earn a stable spot for the upcoming World Junior Championship. There is still one more tournament left but right now Tomas has a pretty good chance of making the team. Tomas is also on roster of Sparta Praha A team for this season. He is in the 4th line now that is because Sparta has an excellent team loaded with quite young perspective players. Most of the players there either are included on the national team preliminary roaster or have been wearing the Czech jersey for the World Championships. Due to the high quality of the team it is hard for Tomas to earn equally enough of the playing time. He is no longer playing for juniors even though his age enables him to do so. He is rather send to Beroun. From time to time he plays in Beroun which is a town not far away from Prague and in fact the hometown of Jiri Fischer. The A team of Beroun is playing in the 2nd highest league in Czech Republic. There are many young players in Beroun and being given a chance to play in senior category is very beneficial for them. Tomas is grateful for this opportunity.

There are some interesting facts from Tomas’ history. When he was a member of the U-18 team they went to North America for a month. They have played a series of 7 matches and also participated in the Viking Cup. Even though Tomas is a smallish player he performed extremely well there even against a physical and well prepared Canadian team. It just proved that the physical style of play doesn’t cause any major problems to Tomas and he himself doesn’t shy away from physical play if necessary. This could be considered as the origin of Tomas’s idea about playing in the CHL next season. Nevertheless when he came back he was still playing for the juniors of Sparta and he was preparing for the U-18 Championship which takes place every year at the end of April. That year it took place in Switzerland and the Czech team performed very poorly which was caused by a series of factors. Czech Republic had a great team there but the final result was 6th place which was the worse in the whole history of the Czech U-18 national selections. As a result many players positioned high in the pre-draft rankings have dropped and those positioned lower in the pre-draft ladder were dropped out completely. Over all consequences were severe only 3 players from that team being drafted unfortunately Tomas Netik wasn’t one of them. Tomas’ U-18 career ended by disappointment and the next step was the U-20 selection. Tomas’ performance in U-18 selection was not that bad when he played 23 games and gained 21 points for 13 goals and 8 assists. But being a realist Tomas knew he had little chance of making the team (U-20 selection).

That year was some what of a transition year for Tomas so he took his chance and after being drafted to the WHL team Medicine Hat in the 1st round of the import draft he didn’t have to think about it for too long and went straight to Canada. He had nothing to lose and was prepared to stay there the whole season. But what a surprise in Medicine Hat? Most valued was to shoot pucks to the opponents’ zone which is nothing close to Tomas’ technical style of play. After 2 and a half months there was unbearable dissatisfaction on both sides and Tomas returned back home. He joined Sparta junior team full of enthusiasm to play and to score goals which perfectly worked for him. He had really a triumphal comeback and thanks to that experience Tomas gained the necessary self-confidence and in 30 games he gained 48 points for 32 goals and 16 assists. Tomas’s scoring appetite in junior league really impressed Sparta and he was invited to practice with the A team. He started to play in the Usti nad Labem team plying the 2nd highest league in the Czech Republic which was good for Tomas to get the taste of senior hockey (he played 7 games gaining 4 points for 3 goals and one assist). After the 2001 WJC Tomas was listed on the U-20 national team preliminary roaster. He has been continuously invited to all training camps, tournaments and pre-season games played by the U-20 national selection he played 8 games where he gained 7 points for 4 goals and 3 assists. He did a good job and by my judgement he has a pretty good chance of being included in the Czech Republic U-20 national team roster for the WJC.

But what actually makes this player so valuable? It all begins in Tomas’ responsible and friendly personality which makes him an excellent team player. He is always in a good mood and supports his team mates. He is trying to create a friendly atmosphere which is inevitable for good on-ice cooperation and team work. When there is an internal balance in the team it gives an extra mental support back to the players. It’s important for Tomas to feel secure and so he can fully concentrate on the game but concentration isn’t what causes problems to Tomas. His style of play is based on amazing skating ability. This isn’t just that he is naturally fast and skillful but it’s a product of extremely hard work. Tomas’ father has always emphasized to him that skating is the most important, fundamental and basic thing in hockey and everything else unrolls from that. Tomas’ role model is David Vyborny who possess outstanding skating abilities and Tomas had a lot of opportunities to watch David when he was still playing for Sparta. David Vyborny is now a solid member of the NHL team Columbus Blue Jackets roster.

Good vision and marvellous play-making abilities are Tomas’ other attributes. He is very intense when playing hockey and no puck is lost for him. In Sparta juniors he was the forechecking winger whereas in the U-20 selection he plays centre with more defensive responsibilities. In both roles he demonstrated his all-round astonishing skills. He is very flexible and open to critique. It’s known that he solves most of the situations by shooting. He is aware of that and explains it: “I was told it’s better to shoot the puck rather than to make a bad pass”. To his defense it’s a fact that he has very brisk hands and his final shot is incredibly accurate as well as hard. He excels by his vision which is stressed by his outstanding hockey sense. His great advantage is that he likes to work for the team and doesn’t think a second about sacrificing for it. He just does it automatically. He is devoted to hockey and plays with passion and vital enthusiasm. He is aware that there is still a lot to improve beginning with his strength. But working out more should soon overcome his other weak point which is the puck control. Hockey critiques pointed out that Tomas is knocked out of puck too easily and greater strength is essential for improvement.

Tomas is perceived as a hard working player with a wonderful personality which together promise him a glittering future career. He has the vitality and the determination to achieve certain goals that he has set for himself. He is young so there is no need to hurry anywhere. Slowly step by step he is moving upwards. This year there is a huge amount of work ahead of Tomas, starting with earning a stable spot in the Sparta A team. This can be achieved by performing well while playing for Beroun and also on the WJC if he will be nominated to join the national selection. This years´ WJC will be hosted by the Czech towns of Pardubice and Hradec Kralove. This is the best opportunity for Tomas and other players to show off in front of their nation as well as the NHL scouts and other hockey specialists. Hopefully the Czech team is going to present itself with a good performance and players will show themselves at their best. If Tomas can be there he will definitely do everything he can for the victory.