“When Cervenka Was Younger, Nobody Believed in Him”



Roman Cervenka joined the KHL in 2010 to play alongside with Jaromir Jagr in Avangard. However, he never made it a secret it was just a temporary stop for him on his journey to the NHL. Here’s a translated interview with Cervenka from his early KHL days in 2010.

Maria Mikhalenko of Sports.Ru originally talked to Cervenka, while Jaromir Jagr volunteered to be the translator. Well, sort of…

Jaromir Jagr: Do you understand what Cervenka says? Let me be your translator. Roman can’t do a thing without me, he can’t even talk. Haven’t he told you? It’s a rule in our team.

Maria Mikhalenko: No, he hasn’t mentioned it.

JJ: I brought him to Omsk and I told his parent that he’s my responsibility. They asked me to take care of him. They also told me to keep an eye on the girls he speaks to.

Roman Cervenka: I’m not telling you anything until Jardo (Jagr’s nickname) is here.

JJ: Bring on the questions.

MM: Roman, would you describe yourself as a two-way forward?

RC: Actually, I have always played center. (Jagr adds…) But he was never lucky there.

Here in Russia centers are supposed to skate back and help their defensemen. We don’t do this in Czech Republic. I didn’t play defense over there. I like it better here because I play on the left wing and there’s no problem.

MM: As a center, are you fond of Pavel Datsyuk?

RC: Yes. This forward has it all – he’s a great skater and he’s got terrific hands. Datsyuk is a very smart player. I think he’s probably my favorite player.

MM: When Datsyuk was young, he wasn’t considered as a player with bright future ahead of him. Did you go through something similar?

RC: Yes. I think it was 5 years ago…(Jagr adds) He’s not like Datsyuk. Roman was always good. At least, he thought he was. His coaches thought otherwise.

MM: Could you name them?

JJ: If Roman tells you a name, you would know the person, anyway. That was one dumb coach back in Czech Republic, I’ll tell you that much! When Cervenka was younger, nobody believed in him.

RC: I wasn’t practicing too much back then. But I realized I had to work harder and I started to play better.

MM: Why did you start playing hockey in the first place?

RC: My parents got me into this. My dad and uncle both played hockey. My mom is a big hockey fan. My favorite memory from childhood is that I scored 9 goals in one game. (Jagr adds) Ha, it’s nothing. I scored 12 once.

MM: Roman, did the coach trust you the World Juniors back in 2005?

RC: Yes, I had a lot of ice-time. I was playing in a second-tier league in Czech Republic at that time. Alois Hadamczik, Team Czech Republic’s current coach, was the head-coach of the junior team then. We played a hard-fought bronze medal game against Team USA and we won. (Jagr adds) As if anybody’s interested that you won a bronze medal at the World Juniors 5 years ago. Roman has no fans. Nobody likes him. He’s a bad person. This is the way he was born.

MM: Roman, did you hear that?

JJ: He knows it’s true.

MM: Do you remember any Russian players from that tournament?

RC: Only Ovechkin and Malkin. These two were the best.

(Jagr adds…) You don’t look at one player specifically. You just sort of feel how he plays. You don’t even want to look at the guy but you understand who’s good and who’s not. However, Roman didn’t play all that much. He’s a bad player. He had time to look at all the players. I don’t even know when I played against who. Hockey players are different from girls. Girls are like this – they see a beautiful girl and they try to be just like here. Good players don’t do this. They don’t look at other good players. They are concerned only with themselves.

MM: Roman, you’re in the Top-30 list in the KHL in penalty minutes. Did the referees let you get away with stuff more often in Czech Republic?

RC: There’s no difference between officiating in Russia and Czech Republic. I don’t even feel like I get a lot of penalties here. It looks like it because once I got a major penalty.

MM: Did you hesitate a lot about going to Russia?

RC: I was only afraid of the local girls. I was told they all want to get married as soon as possible. Is this true?

MM: I don’t know. Personally, I don’t want to yet.

RC: I wasn’t afraid of moving to Russia. I was well-informed about the country. My good buddy Jakub Klepis has played here for a few seasons now. I knew where I was going.

MM: [Blues prospect] Jori Lehtera once mentioned that there are more beautiful girls in Russia than in Finland.

RC: It’s true. Czech girls and Russian girls are both Slavic. They are known for their beauty.

(Jagr adds…) When it comes to girls he’s all in for their character. Roman doesn’t care how his darling looks like, he cares about her personality. She may be ugly but if she has a beautiful personality, Roman melts right away. This is what he cares about the most. I don’t.

MM: Roman, Jardo has just said something remotely good about you for the first time.

RC: That’s because he didn’t lie for the first time.

MM: What had Jagr told you about the country before you came here?

JJ: I told him about you. But nothing good. Although, we may change our perception.

MM: First days in the league our usually the toughest for foreigners. Nobody talks to them.

RC: Honestly, sometimes it even helps. There’s no reason to open up in front of people you don’t know. This is the way it should be. I can’t really say anything about Russians, because I only know a few. But the ones I talk to are really nice people.

I didn’t expect so many hockey fans in Omsk. It was a surprise for me but a good one. I’m glad about it. I do my best so that the fans would be pleased with the way I play. Although, as of now they don’t know anything about me. Not even what kind of a hockey player I am.

MM: Why couldn’t you find such chemistry with Jagr at the recent Olympics?

RC: We almost had no time to work on our chemistry before the tournament. In Avangard we went through the pre-season camp together, we practiced a lot and it all paid off in the end.

MM: Some people say that you’d rather pass to Jagr than shoot.

RC: I don’t think it’s true. I just had to get used to the way Jagr plays.

MM: If it wasn’t for Jagr, you would have played for Avangard?

RC: In all likelihood, no. I had a dream as a kid and I still have it – I want to play in the NHL. When I was presented with an opportunity to play with Jagr, I embraced it. I don’t think I’m wasting time here. On the contrary, I’m gaining the necessary experience. However, I feel positive that one day I will play in the NHL.

  • “MM: Roman, would you describe yourself as a two-way forward?

    RC: Actually, I have always played center. (Jagr adds…) But he was never lucky there.

    Here in Russia centers are supposed to skate back and help their defensemen. We don’t do this in Czech Republic. I didn’t play defense over there. I like it better here because I play on the left wing and there’s no problem.”

    Well this answer is certainly interesting… So he hasn’t played center in 2 years then and is actually a LWer than? And he doesn’t like back checking or he just doesn’t feel he has to as a LWer?

    I liked the whole interview, just that answer has me scratching my head a bit.

    • Not to worried about his game, more worried about his attitude and the attitude of his coaches that he worked under.

      Did they only care about his goal scoaring/offensive touch and thus changed his position to left wing so he wouldn’t have to back check? And if so, we just signed what we thought was a center, who may not have played a whole lot of center, where does he fit in then? With Tangauy and Glenncross already on the left side and Baertschi may also make the team out of camp, there isn’t much room there, maybe they switch him to the right side???

      And I thought the whole point was signing a center, if he hasn’t played much center, what is the use? Here’s to hoping things have changed a lot since that interview, cause that line is not very good.

  • “Here in Russia centers are supposed to skate back and help their defensemen. We don’t do this in Czech Republic. I didn’t play defense over there. I like it better here because I play on the left wing and there’s no problem.”

    I like this kid already.

    • At 105 games played thats about 5 faceoffs a game, that pretty much means he only took them when someone else was waved out, well there goes that idea of being a top 2 center, he’s going to get killed on faceoffs. Which is something as a team we were getting killed on.

  • everton fc

    He doesn’t fit here on the wing, though. He does fit, somewhat, at centre. Once could certainly conclude Cervenka is not a two-way forward.

    Don’t we need two way forwards???

    Does make you wonder if the Flames will take a plunge on Jagr. If they want to win now, versus later. That said, a coach like Ward could do something w/Cervenka, me thinks. Sign Jurcina as a d-man, so he has someone to help him assimilate culturally (unless Horak makes the team again out of camp) and we might have something.


    If it doesn’t work out, no loss… Except to Feaster’s credibility.

  • I know you’re not advocating it, but if we went after Jagr we’d not only be a laughingstock, but we’d be the laughstock that the Oilers of 5 (or whatever) years ago.

    Jagr fits on a team like Philly. For Calgary to go after him it would truly look like grasping at straws.

    I don’t think it would actually happen though. Jagr didn’t miss him enough to move to North America, so I’m pretty sure he can continue to live without him.

    • everton fc

      Nope. Not advocating a Jagr to Calgary signing. Not in the least. But Feaster’s a man who would have offered Richards an absurd contract just to get him here – same type of contract he gave Richards in Tampa which hamstrung the franchise.

      I can never forget this…

      As for faceoffs, we were horrific last season, and it definitely cost us. We need competent faceoff men. This should also never be forgotten.

  • I don’t think the Flames would have signed him if they didn’t believe he could play in a top 6 role. They have scouting staff there, and John Weisbrod also made a trip to see him. If the kid couldn’t play, I really don’t think they would have signed him.

    Just relax

  • Arik

    You guys put way too much stock in faceoffs.

    Anyways, this interview made my day. I love the back and forth between Jagr and Cervenka, especially with Jagr constantly disparaging him.

    • Arik

      Faceoffs are important though, just ask the Nashville Predators how they feel about Boyd Gordon. In game 6 Boyd was 75% from the dot giving Phoenix instant possession which really worked out in Phoenixs favour I`d say.

      Faceoffs are not the be all and end all, but it certainly helps with possession to start with the puck rather than trying to chase it down. Considering we were the worst face-off team in the league last year, it`s something we should look at improving, rather than maintaining status quo or getting worse.

  • Arik


    No need for sarcasm, it accomplishes nothing.

    Either way, Feaster has shown a much greater drive to do due diligence on signings and players. Cervenka may not pan out, but if so, it’ll cost the club next to nothing.

  • Arik

    @Arik – all in good fun, but point taken.

    Flames aren’t out much one way or the other, but my smell factor is picking up a lot of PR spin on this guy. I hope he works due to his age, but ‘hope’ seems to be the operative word when discussing the Flames building plans.

    btw, how do his rights work after the year expires? What would his status be?

  • RexLibris

    I’m not trying to be a contrarian here, but I am beginning to wonder about the continual refrain about “if Cervenka fails it will cost the club nothing”.

    The Flames need to re-balance their roster which right now is heavily weighted on the left-wing and depth players with few elite talents and very little that could be considered as top-two line centers.

    If Cervenka does fail to produce at the consistnnt level required by this team then his roster spot and the time it will take to assess him will indeed cost the Flames something: time and space.

    There is every indication that this season will be about one last try with Iginla and Kiprusoff and as such then this summer ought to be about finding a way to balance this roster. The right-wing side is absurdly lacking after Iginla and the depth down the center is too heavily reliant on Cammalleri making a successful transition to the middle.

    If a 3rd or 4th line body goes down to injury then the Flames will be able to absord that loss better than any other team in the league. A 1st or 2nd line forward? ….

    Cervenka is not the answer to what ails this team. I understand the feeling fans have over his being signed as it is something new, different, and refreshing after years of Darryl Sutter’s stale approach. But I do not believe that his addition is one that this roster is in most need of.

    • I think you’re arguing “opportunity cost” and fair enough. I don’t see either the UFA market or the Flames internal depth offering much in the way of alternatives though. I prefer this gamble to signing Jokinen long-term, for instance.

      Anyways, the Flames aren’t building a cup contender this summer. The focus for the team right now should be to buy as many fair bets as possible, as quickly as cheaply as possible, to try to shore up their horrendous depth in the 24-28 year old category.

      That and finding more elite talent, but that one goes without saying.

      • RexLibris

        Your description sounds a lot like “stay the course” from where I sit.

        Is this really what you would advise for this Flames group or is it that you believe this is the more likely outcome?

        No arguments about avoiding re-signing Jokinen long-term. And the risk in signing Cervenka is mitigated by the short-term. I just think that until Feaster does something to address the weakness at center in the top two lines then all the depth prospects/projects aren’t going to help.

        As for the elite talent, I still think Feaster ought to have traded for Carter when he had the chance. Obviously the asking price wasn’t exceedingly high. I’m not sure when an opportunity to trade for a young first-line center signed long-term will come again.

  • RexLibris


    I agree that faceoffs are important but they vary in that priority depending on the style of play a team favours.

    For a puck-possession team then they are crucial and usually a team that can win the overall faceoff percentage in a game is one that has been geared for that approach.

    Other teams are willing to lose the faceoff if they have skaters who can regain possession shortly thereafter, either by an aggressive forecheck, deft stick-checking defensemen, or quick wingers who can jump the line after the faceoff and take the puck away from the opposition.

    Most coaches, though, would probably just rather their center won the faceoff and kept it simple.

  • MC Hockey

    Interesting article…let’s hope he is a better 2-way forward now (given that LW comment) but if he can score 30+ goals and 50+ points I won’t care too much.

    As for faceoffs, sure they are important but let’s follow the successful model of (ughhhh) Vancouver and let the top line start in the opposing zone and checking line win D-zone faceoffs.

    Further, if a Calgary centre loses a draw in the other team’s end, at least you can forecheck to gain back possession in their half of the ice.

    Finally, if we want to add competent unrestricted free-agent face-off aces who are checkers then may be Flames will consider these guys:

    A. 30-year old Paul Gaustad (ranked 7th in reg season per NHL.com) but he may be costly

    B. Less expensive 26-year old Calgarian Jay Beagle (17th)

    C. 31-year old face-off king and tough-guy Zenon Konopka (#1 face-off guy at amazing 70.7% in regulat season)…at least he is versatile!

  • MC Hockey

    Sorry all the fo% numbers above for Beagle, Konopka, Kelly are PLAYOFFS..sorry the dumb NHL.com page flipped to playoffs from Reg Season. Nonetheless…still good face off guys.

  • everton fc

    We need to find a way to get more top end talent in here. The answer is not bringing in support players for Iggy and Kipper. We need a courageous gm who parlays Iggy and Kipp into prospects, and drafts. No, we will not be competitive next year by doing that but, we really are not competitive now either.