The Aleš Hrebeský Memorial Box Tournament
By JOHN HETZEL
The small Prague suburb of Radotin is still abuzz in the aftermath of last weekend's world lacrosse action. The tournament marked many historical firsts including the first Japanese team to try box lacrosse, the first box lacrosse tournament with four different nations, the first US box team to play in the Czech Republic and the first ever German victory over a Czech club, (LC Passau 2 LC Pardubice 0). The event showcased the Czech's ability to host a fine tournament, and to excel at what is the preferred variety of lax locally, box lacrosse. Radotin's box stadium plays beautifully with its new, sanded astro-turf, and club officials are pleased to report no serious injuries despite 29 fiercely-contested box matches, three youth league games, and a women's exhibition.
Group play was highlighted by two matches decided in the final ten seconds, which foreshadowed the semi-final and final. Group two victory was sealed by LC Jizni Mesto's Martin Nespor who tallied with 2 ticks on the clock against TJ Malesice to send his club into the semis against the number two finisher from group one, REBELS (USA), who lost to the host club and group one victors LCC Radotin with seven seconds to play on an underhand crank from defensive MVP Mirek Knotek.
Semi-Final and Final
The first semi pitted LCC Radotin and cross town rivals TJ Malesice, the hosts prevailing 4-2 in a tight-checking defensive affair. The other semi was more free-wheeling with the third Prague club, LC Jizni Mesto, (Southtown), surprising the visiting REBELS with excellent team speed and good stickwork in posting a 6-2 win, and setting up a rematch of the 2000 Czech League box final. LCC avenged its loss in that meeting, scoring early and never letting Southtown or its many fans get into the game while rolling to a 10-4 win and the 2001 HBA Cup trophy.
The tournament was highlighted by fine lacrosse up and down the table, including the exciting play of what looks to be a box power of the future, Japan. Saturday, Team Tokyo arrived having never tried the sport between the boards, without uniforms which were still en route, and were immediately educated at the Prague school of hard knocks by local 'instructers' TJ Malesice and Jizni Mesto. Despite taking their lumps, Tokyo's manager Takeshi Kato, (Head Coach, Team Japan U-19), and his lads never let up and showed unlimited potential. Sunday, sporting jet-black Tokyo uniforms and an L.A. Raiders bravado, Tokyo outscored its three opponents 18-3 in capturing fifth place with explosive speed, quality stickwork, toughness, and admirable field awareness and team communication. Tokyo captured the hearts of local fans along with the invaders from the other side of the pond, REBELS.
REBELS team manager Bill Curtis, (Rebel Lax Wear), admitted confidentially before the tournament that his team had never practiced or played together, and as an astute lax man and European insider, (head coach Sweden 1994-6), knew the Czechs would be tough. Still, he was surprised when his REBELS, with several Team Toyota/Bud players and a supporting cast from the ranks of an amateur east coast box league, came up short against the Prague clubs. In any case, Prague considers itself privileged to have had the opportunity to host these fine gentlemen and great ambassadors of lacrosse.
That's What It's All About
In addition to holding a coaches clinic for sixty kids on Friday, Bill and his group were big stars around the grounds, always quick with a smile, autograph, or technical pointer, and kids and league players alike are already looking forward to next April 19-21, 2002 when the REBEL show comes to town again. A special shout to Bill for the prizes REBEL LAX donated for the kids, and for tournament award winners-truly quality merchandise that gave this year's event a great image.
That's What It's All AboutSocially, the HBA Cup proved a big winner too, starting with the local city hall's special welcoming luncheon for players visiting from abroad, to Saturday's lavish official stadium opening ceremony complete with local and Prague city mayors, president of the League of Czech Sporting Clubs, and the Czech Men's & Women's Lacrosse presidents cutting the tape. While the teams stood by in uniform, a popular TV moderator MCed, majorettes danced, and a former Miss CR threw out the first ball. Most players and many fans mustered for the party at the stadium hall Saturday night where Takeshi led about one hundred party-goers in a Japanese beer drinking game. Sunday night's closing party and buffet at the popular Prague restaurant/Jazz Club U Maleho Glena proved a crowning gem of an evening with REBELS, Tokyo, and many Prague players mingling over excellent munchies, great cold beer, and groovy tunes.
Thanks from the organizers for all event participants, sponsors, and fans who made this year's HBA Cup/ Ales Hrebesky Memorial a wonderful experience.
Talk About it!