Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek is currently practicing with HK Mountfield (a.k.a. Hradec Kralove Mountfield) in the Czech Republic, and Hronek spoke with Sport.cz’s Jan Svanda today regarding playing for the team whose organization developed him into an NHL player.
What follows is roughly translated from Czech, and I need to emphasize the roughly part here (Czech is not Swedish or German):
After four years, he’s with Hradec again. The Detroit defenseman is looking forward like a little kid
When he left Mountfield Hradec Kralove four years ago, he was only earning his spurs in the Extraliga. Now he returns to it as a star player. At the age of 22, Filip Hronek became an integral part of Detroit’s defensive ranks, for which he’s already played 111 games in the NHL. Due to the later start of the new NHL season, the overseas competitor will help the team where he grew up playing hockey this autumn.
He is excited for games, but he’s not afraid of possible injuries. “I really don’t even want to hear about it anymore, because everyone asks me about it,” he says, smiling. “I’m just going to play and not think about injuries at all,” assures the defenseman, whose contract insurance is paid by the East Bohemian team.
The Red Wings did not prevent him from starting for his parent team, so there’s nothing in the way of the offensive quarterback after signing his contract. “I’m looking forward to playing again in front of Hradec Kralove fans, and that I’ll be home again,” he says.
He last wore the Hradec Kralove jersey in 2016, when Mountfield wasn’t enough against Mlada Boleslav in the quarterfinals. At the time, Hronek was teammates with, for example, Jaroslav Bednar, Karel Pilar and current staff member Zdenek Cap.
He trains regularly with the players of Hradec during the summer, which is why he joined the team without the slightest problem. “I’m looking forward to the jokes, of course. There are plenty of jokers here, the biggest one is probably ‘Ned’ (Richard Nedomlel),” says the Czech national team veteran, who was declared the best defenseman last year [at the World Championship] in Bratislava.
“First, I’m not old, and second, I’ve known all the boys since I was a child,” says Mountfield’s resounding reinforcement, as he gets used to the wider rink. “We’ll see whether it’s going to be a problem. But I don’t think so,” says Hronek, whose arms and legs are already itching to play. No wonder. He hasn’t played competitively for half a year; on March 16, he played against Carolina, but he hasn’t played in another game.
“We were supposed to play in Washington the next day. They told us that the game wouldn’t take place due to the COVID-19 epidemic. So we flew back to Detroit, didn’t go to the rink, didn’t train and waited. Then they told us that the league was being interrupted,” Hronek says, as he describes the unusual end of the season, affected by the coronavirus pandemic. “I haven’t played for a long time, and I’m looking forward to games like I was a little kid. It’s a strange new situation for me,” he says.
He didn’t enjoy much at the team level in the last year. The Red Wings were stuck to the bottom of the Atlantic Division, registering just 39 points in 71 games last year. “It was difficult. You lose and it’s not pleasant. We got under such a blanket [of losses] that we couldn’t get out of it,” ‘Hronka’ says regretfully. “We had enough young boys, we played…Maybe it will move toward better times next season,” hopes the player who posted 9 goals, 22 assists and, given Detroit’s poor performance, a -38 in 65 games.
But he has great confidence. He became the busiest Czech player in the NHL, playing an average of almost 24 minutes per game on the ice. “It was great to play like that a lot; it’s always better than sitting on the bench, so I definitely didn’t mind. It was a learning experience,” says the skilled hockey player, who was the most productive Czech defenseman of the last season of Canadian-American competition, with 31 points.
While he is preparing for the start of the Extraliga, where he’s never scored a goal, this season is just the culmination for the NHL. “It’s very difficult for the boys on the team. But there’s nothing you can do. They wanted to finish the league [season] at any cost, there was probably a lot of money in it, so it’s just still being played [now],” he added.