Jan Havel

* 1942  

  • “This situation in 1969 was the worst. The World Ice Hockey Championship did not take place in Czechoslovakia because the communist authorities were afraid something might happen; the mood was escalating. We got really mad and wrote a petition saying that we will not shake hands with the Russians after the match, no matter if we win or lose. We had training at Hotel Hubertus and we introduced our plan to our coaches all together in the bus, just before leaving for the airport. They needed to contact the authorities, it took about two hours. Eventually, they came back and said: ‘All right then, it’s no big deal. You don’t need to shake their hands, even if you lose. We will deal with that later.’ They knew the airplane was about to take off and that this is why we told them in the very last moment. Thus back then, the national team did what was right; each individual and the team as a whole swore that we would not shake hands with the occupiers. It was not only about winning or losing. Above all, we wanted to show to the people that we do not agree with the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. This was the first World Ice Hockey Championship to be played in two rounds. In between the two matches, we found out that the Czech television cut out our protest, nobody saw it. However, telegrams were coming in and telephones were ringing at the hotel we were staying at. Yet the coaches presented us only the good messages, not the bad ones, to rouse us even more. And so shortly before the second match we said in the cabin that we knew they had cut it out and that now we would cover the communist star on our jerseys. And that was the decisive moment. Some wanted to do it, others not. Everybody according to their own conscience. We asked everybody. In the end, five of them covered it.”

  • “When I was five years old my dad went ice-skating with me for the first time and I really liked it. He put on me those oldschool boots; we called them ‘šlajfky’. There was a knot; you needed to have ankle-high shoes with solid heels and firm sole to which the blade was screwed. And he brought me dressed in sweatpants and a jacket on the ice for the first time. He took my hand to help me with the first steps. He gave me a ride around the pond and then said: ‘You need to let go of my hand. Don’t worry, start like this…’ I was staring at him, then ran a few steps and then sledged a little and I really loved it. But he said: ’Not like that. You need to push from the left foot to the right. Let me show you…’ He pulled away on the pond and eventually, he ended up at the floodgates; there were little pebbles or some slag on the surface and he somehow got stuck. Thus my first impression was seeing my dad landing on his stomach. He never showed me again. But it is true that ever since, when I came back from school I threw my bag away and went to the pond.”

  • “Of course we got injured; I can’t say we did not. If I count correctly, I have 145 stitches in my face. Those were the stronger hits, of course. Once, I had the skin and flesh below my eye all torn off. I had 27 stitches inside and 14 stitches from the outside, it was like a flapper. But hockey is a hard sport and you need to carry on. There were a lot of injuries but it is interesting that throughout the whole period only Honza Eysselt from Sparta really suffered the consequences when a puck smashed his eye. From that moment on, we started to use the shields as well. Thus a few individuals suffered the consequences. I don’t know how many exactly but I remember this one clearly because it happened in Sparta, I took part in the match and it happened only one meter away from me. And so this one lost his eye, but he kept playing without the eye for two more seasons and we really respected that he dared to step on the ice with one eye only. All in all, I think that - except for those eyes - there were not that many injuries of such gravity, making somebody seriously and permanently disabled. Those knees and stuff, this is what happens at our age. I’ll also have to have my knees replaced to be able to walk. I’ve been postponing it for three years now. But the doctors say: ‘If you can walk, then walk for as long as you can before it starts to hurt.’ In the end, I think that one realizes the consequences of doing this much sport only when they’re over fifty, sixty, or even older.”

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    Praha Hagibor, 17.02.2014

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My life was only about hockey

Jan Gusta Havel, 1967
Jan Gusta Havel, 1967
photo: Archiv Jana Havla

Jan Havel, called “Gusta” by his teammates, was born on 10 November 1942 in Pašinka, a village close to Kolín. He learned ice-skating on a local pond and started to play for Tatra Kolín when he was only 10 years old. Later, he played for the army teams od Dukla Litoměřice and Dukla Jihlava until he finally got to Sparta Praha. As a member of the Czech national hockey team from 1967 to 1972, he participated in two Olympic Games and three Ice Hockey World Championships. The historically most significant of these was the Stockholm World Championship of 1969, during which Czech players refused to shake hands with the Soviet team in protest against the Warsaw Pact military invasion to Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Together with four other players, Jan even dared to cover the red star on his jersey. Until 1976 he remained an active player of Sparta, where he achieved several long-standing records. At present, Jan coaches Sparta’s junior players.