(Toronto) When Dominika Lásková’s name rang out at the LPHF draft, a mixture of euphoria and surprise filled the room.
The euphoria was that of the group of Czech players on site, excited to see one of their own being selected as early as the 19e rank. This is a bit what also fueled the almost general surprise, while Canadian and American Olympians were still available.
By grabbing Lásková, Montreal nevertheless set the tone: four other Czechs were drafted in the top 50. Notably Tereza Vanišová, who will join her compatriot in the metropolis.
To the casual observer, these choices may appear surprising. For the players present in Toronto, it seemed much more natural, especially knowing that the Czechs are bronze medalists of the last two World Championships.
“We could see how well they played,” admitted Marie-Philip Poulin. It’s no surprise to me to see girls from everywhere (getting drafted). »
“The Czech Republic has a lot of discipline,” added goalkeeper Ann-Renée Desbiens. They work hard, cohesively, and are very physical. I am sure that these two players will bring this aspect with them to Montreal. »
This “cohesion” is a little (a lot) the legacy of Carla McLeod. This Canadian, double Olympic gold medalist, moved behind the bench after the Vancouver Games in 2010. She took charge of the Czech program two years ago. And the results were striking.
“She’s a great leader, I would follow her anywhere,” said Dominika Lásková. He’s a big role model for me. Unfortunately, I will now play against her. »
Because yes, McLeod is today in the LPHF, after accepting the position of head coach of the Ottawa team.
“We don’t have an elite league in the Czech Republic, so players have to go into exile to play,” noted Tereza Vanišová. So to see how our national team is developing, it shows to what extent Carla is accomplishing incredible things. »
Even though Lásková and Vanišová played last season for the Toronto Six in the PHF, it was in the uniform of their native country that they attracted the attention of the Montreal team. General director Danièle Sauvageau, who has been interested in the development of European athletes for years, explained that she particularly appreciated the way in which her two new players behaved against Canada and the United States in the last international meetings.
For a long time
Today reunited in Montreal, Dominika Lásková and Tereza Vanisova have known each other since adolescence. The two followed each other at all levels of the national junior and then senior program. They crossed the Atlantic to study and play in the NCAA – at Merrimack and Maine, respectively – before ending up in Toronto.
The two hugged for a long time when Montreal selected Vanišová in the seventh round.
“We were of course surprised, but how lucky we can be! “, exclaimed Vanišová, a forward who participated in last year’s PHF All-Star game.
Both members of the Czech Olympic team which took part in the Beijing Games in 2022, they are proud of being able to promote European women’s hockey in Canada and the United States. “One day, it will no longer be these two countries playing for gold! “, predicted Lásková. This offensive defender, who also played on offense in the PHF, describes herself as a playmaker who likes to distribute the puck.
Alternating between a serious, almost serious face and a radiant smile, she likes to see herself as the clown of her team. The one who annoys her teammates to lighten the mood. And who emphasizes to them, on occasion, “that we are here because we love this game more than anything”.
“I just want to make sure everyone remembers that,” she concludes.