Quick: when I say “Czech Republic” what sport do you think of? OK, step out the lacrosse box for a minute and take an unbiased stance. Most people will automatically think hockey, soccer or even tennis as the dominant sports, producing names such as Dominik Hasek, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Nedved, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl. Well, while he may not be in the upper echelon of Czech athletes, one name lacrosse fans can start to get used to is the newest member of the Victoria Jr Shamrocks: Dominik Pesek.
We first heard from Dominik during the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Prague where he was a big part of the 4th-place Czech squad that shocked England in the quarters to face the Americans in the bronze medal game. Tuesday night, the Jr. Rocks introduced him to the media but also to west coast life. IL Indoor was able to get an exclusive one on one interview with what is believed to be the first direct European import to Canadian lacrosse.
After a long day of flying, Pesek’s first order of business was to check out his new lacrosse home: Bear Mountain Arena, a place that has seen some of the game’s best ply their trade over the years. “We don’t have anything like that back home,” said Pesek, whose infectious smile and great personality will be an immediate fan favourite for the green and white.
The 21-year-old from Prague and the LCC Radotin lacrosse club isn’t new to Canadian soil, mind you, having spent a year playing at The Hill Academy under brothers Patrick and Brodie Merrill. “He just has such natural instincts for the game that make him such a good player,” adds the older Merrill, Patrick, who was blown away by Pesek’s passion for the game and his hunger to learn and grow.
But while he was playing field lacrosse at The Hill, it’s the indoor game where Pesek excels and feels most comfortable and that was evident during the 2011 World Indoor Championships. Merrill thinks back to a friendly game Canada played against the Czechs before the Worlds. “I think that game and tournament really inspired Dom to be better. He wasn’t intimiidated playing against the best players in the world, it fired him up.”
Pesek remembers that game very fondly, too, but for a different reason. “It was such an unreal experience. Playing against guys I’d watched for years like John Grant and Colin Doyle.” But it was Team Canada defender Rory Smith that may have left the biggest impression on the young phenom. “I went to D him up and he just ran me over. He hit me so I hard I thought he broke my collar bone. It was crazy.” All said with an exuberant glowing smile, like it was an honour to have one of the games toughest guys bowl him over.
So how does a kid from Prague end up in Victoria, BC? Well thanks to Czech teammate and Shamrock alum Chet Koneczny talking up the BC capital during the Worlds, it was a no-brainer for the athletic right-hander. “He just had such great things to say about the city, the people, the culture, the organization. He said if you want to play lacrosse in Canada, you have to do it in Victoria.”
And do it he will. Jr Rocks GM Rod Wood was able to convince Pesek to make the journey across the Atlantic and all of Canada to join the squad but made sure he knew there were no guarantees of making the team. “The main reason we brought him out so early was so that he could participate in our full training camp, get used to the speed of Canadian lacrosse and we have high hopes that he’ll be a big contributor for us.” Wood told Pesek they would give him three or four games and they would re-evaluate him and decide if he’ll make the cut.
However, if you’ve seen him play, you can feel as confident as the Rocks do that he’ll last the entire season out west.
But with anything that’s new there will always be skeptics and Pesek acknowledges that. If you watch his highlight tape that’s been making its rounds on youtube and lacrosse websites, he’s dominant. No doubt about it. But it just seems natural to him, like this is what he was born to do. There’s no awkwardness about his game that you think you would see from some players in a country fairly new to lacrosse. His first step is lightning fast, his outside shot is hard and precise and he loves to get airborne. Upon first seeing his video, one name came to mind: Curtis Dickson.
The critics will say, though, that he’s doing all this in the soft, non-competitive Czech league where they don’t have big mean defenders like Kyle Rubisch, Andrew McBride, Jeff Moleski and Rory Smith. To that Pesek was quick to say, “They’re right. Our lacrosse is nowhere near as rough or aggressive as it is here.” But in the same sentence he’s quick to point out that some of the goalies he’s scoring on are top level Canadian goalies like Scott Komer and Neil Tyacke.
In the twenty-odd minutes we chatted, I was just constantly blown away the more we talked. Pesek speaks very good English, he’s not arrogant or cocky, you can tell he’s a fish out of water here but you can also see he’s a very fresh piece of clay that will be very easily shaped and moulded. He loves to play lacrosse.
He knows the game and the players. “I’d wake up early in the mornings or late at night just so I could watch the games on youtube,” he says. The kid just gets it.
So, a country that has provided Tennis Grand Slams, European Soccer Champions, World Ice Hockey Champions is now exporting lacrosse superstars-in-the-making. Dominik’s lacrosse blood lines are deep in the family as both his parents played for the Czech Nationals and now he’s looking to make his own legacy.
While he has his sights set on the National Lacrosse League, first he must attend his first ever Jr A lacrosse camp this weekend with the rest of the Jr Shamrock rookies and enjoy the life of bus rides, ferry rides and two-hand chops. The future is bright for the Czech Republic’s biggest and brightest lacrosse export and North America is happy to have him.Teddy Jenner is one the leading sources for lacrosse information. He comes by his love of lax honestly with a lifetime of experience, two Mann Cup championships and six years of play in the NLL. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @OffTheCrosseBar or catch him on Team 1410 radio in Vancouver, B.C., as the host and producer of the Off the Crosse-Bar Radio Show In 2012, he was awarded the BCLA's Norm Wright Merit Award- handed out to a member of the media deemed to have have contributed to the promotion of lacrosse.
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