After a long wait, the home ice hockey team of the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno, has just landed the top domestic league title. There were celebrations on the home ice and in the city.
There was an explosion of joy in Brno, on Wednesday night after the home ice hockey team, Kometa Brno, clinched the national league title for the 2016-2017 season. That success has been a long time coming for Kometa Brno. Many of the fans will have been too young to remember the last time they won the league title back in the 1965-1966 season, 51 years ago.
In recent years the league title has been tantalisingly close, Brno were championship runners up in 2012 and 2014. This time round it looked like the club were leaving nothing to chance. Facing the reigning league champions, Liberec, in the finals, Brno quickly established a three series lead with wins at home and away. And it was appropriate perhaps that the first chance to take the league title came before Kometa’s enthusiastic, and apparently patient, home fans.
The win was perhaps especially emotional for Brno’s 39-year- old captain, Leoš Čermak, who only came away with a silver medal in the previous finals and must have been wondering at some stages whether the gold would elude him for ever. He confessed afterwards that a sporting dream had just come true.
ʺI have played hockey all my life with the goal of having this feeling. I am overjoyed that the boys and the team have finally made it possible for me at the end of my career."
After taking a 3:0 lead in the finals series, the Brno captain admitted that the pressure was on to end the long wait for a league title but expectations still had to be contained. And the tension in the sold out Brno stadium built up throughout the first period with neither team finding the net. Kometa struck first in the 23rd minute but it took Liberec just 15 seconds to hit back and draw level. But from then on the home team began to take control and established a two goal lead before running out eventual 5:2 winners. Captain Leoš Čermak again:
ʺWe sort of expected it and did not expect it. We certainly believed in ourselves and it helped a lot to win the two away matches, that was a real boost. But during the whole series and the play-offs we were strong throughout and there were not lapses. We maintained our consistent form."
Čermak added that he was only convinced they had clinched the title with 30 second left on the clock. The Brno manager though confessed that he had believed from May last year that the mix of new talent and old players being put together would pay off this season.
During the play-offs and finals Kometa only lost two matches, both in the semi-finals against Hradec Králové. The long awaited win gives the club its 12th title, equalling the existing tally of the record championship holder Jihlava. In its golden era ending in 1966 the Brno club had won 11 titles in 12 seasons.