The Canadian | Juraj Slafkovský, “an idol of young Slovaks”

The information published on our pages on Tuesday about a meeting between Juraj Slafkovský and the Slovak ambassador to Washington was ultimately a blatant lie. stopping at nothing, Press I’ve reached the end of this story.

“I had to be there. We contacted Juraj through Peter Bondra and he was kind enough to accept our offer. But at the weekend I tested positive for COVID-19 and was stuck at home,” Radovan Javorčík laments by phone.

Finally, it was two employees of the Slovak embassy who visited Slafkovský, accompanied by their family, so that eight compatriots were waiting for the young Canadian prospect after the 5-2 victory against the capitals.

“Juraj scored two goals, he played against (Capital’s Slovakian defender) Martin Fehérváry, so they talked about that. He also spoke to my employees’ children to encourage them to invest in their interest in hockey,” says Javorčík.


Colonel Milan Halzinger (left), Slovak diplomatic staff in Washington

This visit says a lot, especially about the interest that Slafkovský arouses in his country. “One of the nicknames of our country is “Republic of Hockey”,” recalls the ambassador.

“In 2022, when Juraj was selected first overall and Šimon Nemec was selected second, we said, ‘Wow, something is happening and Slovakia is back.’ So we followed every Montreal game, watched Juraj rise from third line to second line and then to first line. We read every quote from Martin St-Louis. »

In it top 3

Our interlocutor knows hockey. It is enough to hear him pronounce the name of the Canadian coach in its entirety or mention Filip Mešár, a young man still far from the NHL despite his status as a first-round pick, to be convinced.

But according to Javorčík, Slafkovský has become “an idol for all young Slovaks.”

He left the country very young to live his dream. It is a beautiful story of perseverance and his family made many sacrifices. He is an inspiration for young people, he makes our flag shine and he has an endearing personality.

Radovan Javorčík, ambassador of Slovakia in Washington, at the proposal of Juraj Slafkovský

“Our hockey went through a period of uncertainty after the generation of Marián Gáborík and Žigmund Pálffy. There was a void. So seeing a 17-year-old come to the Olympics and score goals gave me a boost. »

According to him, Slafkovský is one of the three most famous athletes in his country, along with alpine skier Petra Vlhová, Olympic slalom champion in 2022, and Marek Hamšík, pillar of the national football team, former Napoli star, recently retired. We assume that the cyclist Peter Sagan also gravitates towards this group.

In Slovakia there are around 12,000 registered hockey players, according to the latest annual report of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). They play more football there than hockey, Javorčík admits, “because a field and a ball are enough for that. Hockey is more complicated.” But he considers hockey to be “more popular” than football. In the latest FIFA rankings, Slovakia is ranked ranking among men, at 49my range among women.

“You know, we separated from the Czech Republic about thirty years ago. We consider Czechs our best friends, but when we play hockey with each other, we hate each other for 60 minutes! That says a lot about the importance of sport. »

small embassy

With almost six million inhabitants, Slovakia is obviously not a global giant and, therefore, its embassy is not huge. About fifteen employees work there.

So what does a Slovak ambassador do in Washington?

“In general, it is about defending the national interests of Slovakia,” the diplomat responds. We open doors to meet people, to build relationships, whether in business, sports or the artistic field. »

Therefore, arranging a meeting with a hockey player is part of this mandate, although Radovan Javorčík does not exactly suffer torture for attending hockey games.

“It allows you to combine business with pleasure. I like hockey. But I take the opportunity to meet people behind the scenes. If a Slovak plays, we publish it on our social networks and show that Slovakia is represented. »

Javorčík intends to bounce back next season from his missed meeting. “I saw Juraj’s comment that he was expecting a dinner invitation from me or Martin (Fehérváry). You are both definitely invited! »

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