If the crisis of Czech hockey is not evident anywhere, it is in the goal area. In the current season, another domestic goalie – Jiří Patera – successfully got a peek into the famous NHL. At the moment, he is not catching in sharp battles, but he has not had a vacation yet. After the end of the year, he trains on the farm in case Vegas needs him in the fight for the Stanley Cup.
Vegas will face Winnipeg to open the playoffs. Any chance you could get in the gate in this or any future series?
There is certainly always a chance, but that would have to come with an injury, which I do not wish for the goalkeepers in front of me (it is the current number one Laurent Brossoit, the experienced substitute Jonathan Quick and the three of Adin Hill, editor’s note). I’d say the chance is slim. Anyway, I’m ready.
This year, you caught the first two games for Vegas with a 92.9 save percentage. From this point of view, you did the best of the five goalkeepers who played for Vegas this season. Are you satisfied?
I’m happy, but I’m more happy than the statistics that I managed to win both matches and that I had my parents here as well. In addition, the percentage is decided after more matches than just after two or three.
After those two games, did you think you were fine in the NHL, or did something catch you off guard?
I’ve proven to myself that I can catch at this level. I know that there is still a lot of work ahead of me, because in three years in the AHL I have caught only about sixty games. I think the club will want more experience from me before keeping me up there for a long time.
You made your debut at the age of 24, six years after the draft. It’s common for goaltenders to take longer to make it in the NHL than fielders. Why is it?
It’s very specific with goalkeepers in that one or two people have to get injured for the next goalkeeper to get a chance. There are twelve places in the lineup for forwards, two for goalkeepers, with only one catching. Some goalkeepers are so talented that they are able to catch at nineteen or twenty in this league, but there aren’t many of them. Rather, you have to get in the physical and mental condition to catch consistently in every game. And that takes a long time. I’m also trying to learn how not to have big fluctuations. This is the most important step.
At the farm in Henderson, you are in charge of goalkeeping coach and former goalkeeper Fred Brathwaite. How do you work with him?
I really like Freddy, he is excellent. Here, the trainers are no longer trying to remake you, but they help you with the details and try to get you mentally well.
What details do you mean?
For example, the depth in the goal area is discussed a lot, so that the goalkeeper is not too busy or busy. To not show the player much space to shoot. Then of course it’s reading the play. Those are probably the two most important things, the most important details, that are dealt with here.
Henderson is right next to Las Vegas, which at first glance isn’t exactly a hockey destination. How do you play in the Nevada desert?
When I first came here, I was wide-eyed at how it looks here. A crazy city, a big difference compared to České Budějovice, where I worked in the Czech Republic. But you get used to it. When you live here for a while, you don’t even go downtown anymore and everything seems so normal. Otherwise, people really love hockey here, we have four to five thousand visitors at the farm, Vegas is sold out.
You left Budějovice for overseas right after the draft and chose the junior USHL, which often serves as a preparation for university hockey. Didn’t he attract you?
When Vegas drafted me from the Czech Republic, they told me that they wanted me to be in America so that they could keep a closer eye on me. But the Canadian junior was closed to European goalkeepers at that time, so I went to the American USHL for a year, which I was told was a very good league. I really didn’t want to go to university. A couple of them came to see me if I wasn’t interested, but I know it would be an even longer journey. Some guys are at university for two years before they go to the boys, but often it’s three or four years. I don’t know, it didn’t appeal to me, I wanted to try the Canadian junior next year.
Jiří Patera in the Brandon Wheat Kings jersey from the Canadian junior WHL, where he worked from 2018 to 2020. | Photo: Sport Invest
By the way, your surname catches the attention of many at first glance. Do people think you’re related to Nagan champion Pavel Patera when you’re not?
To some Americans, the name Patera means something, but of my current teammates in the AHL, which is a much younger league, no one has yet asked me if I am related to him. It happens to me a lot in the Czech Republic.
Have you also come across rumors that you have patronage as a Patera?
Fortunately, no one said this or anything similar to me. And when someone asked me normally, I just answered that it was a coincidence of names. By the way, dad also played hockey, but he had to quit due to an injury. He played for Slavia, so he probably started against Pavlo Pater when they were seventeen or eighteen.
Your rookie contract will expire in the summer. Are you already negotiating an extension of cooperation?
We are waiting to see how the playoffs will unfold. They said they would talk to me after the season. Either they confirm my qualifying offer and I’m protected, or they don’t – then I could sign with anyone. It’s up to them, but I’d really like to stay here. I have many friends here, the weather is wonderful. In the summer, when it’s the hottest, I do return to the Czech Republic, but it’s great during the off-season. Something completely different from the Canadian junior, where it was still snowing and it was minus fifty.
If you stay in Vegas, what would you like to accomplish next season? The club has already signed a long-term contract with two goalkeepers – Logan Thompson and Robin Lehner.
I would like to be the third one, the number one on the farm and the first one called up if someone gets hurt. It would certainly be nice to sign a longer contract for two or three years, but it depends on what works for Vegas with regard to the salary cap and other contracts.
NHL players used to pick a goaltender to take to their team if they needed to win one game. Andrei Vasilevskiy from Tampa won supremely over Igor Šestorkin from the Rangers. Who do you think is the best goalkeeper in the competition?
I’d probably go with the crowd, so Vasilevsky, but I’ll also mention Shestorkin and Sorokin from the Islanders, they’re the three best goaltenders in the league in my opinion. I think the Russians are a level above the others now, which is thick. It’s always been the Swedes, the Finns, the Canadians, but now the Russians rule.
Why is it? Do they have a different catching style than others, or is it the same for everyone today?
The training that goes into the off-season in Russia must be different from the rest of the world. Hard to say. It would be nice to see what Vasilevsky does on and off the ice in preparation, but on the other hand, I understand that he probably doesn’t want to show it to anyone. It’s unbelievable that he’s been catching so well for so long.
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