DRFG Arena will roar with passion and sing with pride when HC Kometa play their first home game on Sunday. Photo credit: HC Kometa.
To know the city of Brno you need to experience an HC Kometa
game. Špilberk Castle is great. The Cathedral of St. Peter and
Paul is majestic. Villa Tugendhat is architecturally important on an
international scale. The Chronometer and the Jošt statue are powerful symbols
of the city’s history. And a fresh skopek
of Starobrno is divine.
But, like I said, if you really want to know the city of Brno, you have to experience a
Even if you do not know a thing about hockey and even if
you do not care about sports — in fact, especially if you don’t know a thing
about hockey and don’t care about sports — then you are the exact person who
needs to experience the inside of DRFG Arena when the packed stands and the
standing-room-only sections explode is euphoria to celebrate, together, the
scoring of a goal.
The problem is that many people already know about this
intoxicating feeling, and they are already addicted. Getting tickets is not
HC Kometa started the Tipsport extraliga season yesterday
at HC Verva Litvínov.
The team returns to Brno and DRFG Arena for its first
home game tomorrow against defending-champion HC Oceláři Třinec at 4 p.m. If
you don’t have tickets, then you can watch the game on CT Sport.
The regular season has 52 games, roughly two games a week
through early March. Then the postseason starts.
* * *
The Czech Republic is a hockey country and HC Kometa is
the best team in the history of this hockey country.
Brno dominated Czechoslovakian hockey by winning titles
in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1965. If you
didn’t catch the one imperfection, they failed to win the title between 1955
and 1966 only once, in 1959.
Unfortunately, then came some dark days. The 1990s and
early 2000s were tough. The team was relegated and struggled in the second and third
leagues for almost two decades. The fans were still there — hundreds would
travel to away games in tiny towns — and, eventually, the team got back into
the top league.
Libor Zábranský, a former NHL and national team player
who was born in Brno in 1973, took control of the club in 2005. He has served
as the owner, general manager and, for the 3½ years through last season, as the
head coach. In 2009, Kometa purchased the top division license from the team in
Znojmo and returned to the top league. They have proven that they belong ever
since. They finished second in the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons, building the
fan base into a rabid collection of super fans.
More recently, Kometa returned to the pinnacle of the
sport. They won titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18. In both years, they caught fire
in the postseason, sweeping past their opponents with a postseason record of
Think about that for a second: in consecutive
postseasons, HC Kometa lost just four times in two dozen matches against the
best teams in the league. It is a remarkable show of dominance in any sport.
In all, Kometa has won the national title 13 times, the
most of any team in national history.
Last year, they reached the semifinals before they were
eliminated. This year, Kometa are considered to be among the top four teams in
the league, with a new head coach, both their offensive and defensive cores
intact and NHL-experienced players as well.
* * *
The local passion for HC Kometa should not, of course, be
a surprise to anyone who has lived in Brno. Fans with jerseys and scarves are commonplace
on gamedays. Bars and restaurants show the games and cheers at random times flow
out into the streets. Every office has the die-hard fans who recap each game
around the coffee machine. Really, for what other reason would the city have outdoor
public gatherings with big screens like they it does for postseason games.
Even when the team finished second in 2011-12 the city proudly
displayed a detailed celebratory sand sculpture on Náměstí svobody. (I know because my hockey-mad wife of less than an
hour wanted a picture in front of it, she in her wedding dress, me in my best
suit, and both of us sweating in the July heat as we walked with our wedding
guests from the cathedral to the restaurant where we celebrated our nuptials.)
Last Saturday, Starobrno closed down Mendlovo náměstí to
throw its annual pre-season party for the team. Chinaski, a longtime popular
Czech band, played in the primetime slot, but the highlight for many was the
“christening” of the new uniforms that Kometa will wear during the 2019-20
* * *
There are many videos on YouTube that show the passion of
Kometa fans. Perhaps the best is a Starobrno commercial from a few years ago.
It shows the fans as they sing the team anthem.
The chorus is: Lift your blue-and-while scarves / Lift your Brno Kometa.
I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. The publishing of this article does not constitute an endorsement of or any other expression of opinion by the management of Brno Daily.