Understanding the event
OK, let’s face it. The Ice-Hockey World Championships are really a Tier II championship. It’s a tournament of the best ice-hockey players who play for teams that got kicked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs already. Also, early and mid May is not the time of the year you would associate with ice-hockey - or ice for that matter - but let’s not worry about that. The hockey is still good and the Czechs love the tournament, and this year it is held in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic!
Blending in with the fans
You will see - and share - two main emotions among the fans: frustration that the Czechs are either losing (to a good team) or not winning by a wider margin (over a weaker team), and cheery satisfaction if things go well. Anger at the ref’s decisions is also common. Beer and alcohol consumption tend to rise with each goal scored. You may make many local friends if the Czechs win an important game.
Classic rivalries? Of course, Czechs and Slovaks remain brother until they play each other in ice-hockey or soccer. Russia is a commonly despised opponent for historical and other reasons. Sweden is a respected and sometimes feared team that has beaten the Czechs repeatedly in recent years. Canada is a classic opponent that the Czechs aspire to beat.
Where to see the games?
A small chain of local favorite pubs in Prague will show the games. Excellent fresh Pilsner Urquell from the tank, tasty Czech pub food, and surprisingly good pastries and wine, too (although people may be looking strange at you). They have a few locations throughout Prague: the biggest location at Dlouha has two screens and projectors. Make sure you sit in the non-smoking section. The Misenska street location has TVs and has just gone entirely non-smoking. Other Lokals near the centre include the Lokal Hamburk in the Karlin district and the Lokal nad Stromovkou in the Letna district. Both have TVs installed. Reserving a table for the games might be a good idea.
Riegrovy Sady Park
The Riegrovy sady park sports a 1400-capacity beer garden that sells beer, traditional snacks that pair well with beer, and some simple grilled meats. Beer is at the centre of things here: they go through a keg in 15 minutes here. (You can also have a pre- or post-game burger at The Tavern. Our favorite is the pulled pork burger.) This is the place to get a real local experience. The beer is not as good as in Lokals, for instance, but the atmosphere and the open-air setting make up for it. Better for the night games because the screen is not that bright during the daylight.
The sister pub of The Tavern in the Zizkov district will also show games on two TVs. We strongly recommend U Kurelu for the games because you get the best of all worlds: craft beers and house cocktails? Check. Good pub food? (Think chili dogs, burgers and so on.) Check. Authentic pub atmosphere without the smoky interiors? Check. The place is loved by younger crowds and has a lively, happy vibe.
This centrally located place is very popular for its lunch specials that lure workers from the surrounding offices. (We don't like lunch specials. They're not something proper foodies would cheer for because they clearly focus on quantity and value rather than quality of the food.) We are recommending Bredovsky dvur because we have heard that the regulars here include past-time Czech ice-hockey legends so you get some insight into the game (if you speak Czech and are nearby), or at least an autograph if you recognize them. Booking a table for a game is a must.
Whom to look for?
Chuck Norris of European ice-hockey, Jaromir Jagr is a semi-god here in the Czech Republic. Now 43, he played his first World Championships 25 years ago, but he can still decide a game. One of the heroes of the 98 Nagano Olympics (aka the Tournament of the Century). If he ran for the president, all the opponents would probably give up right away. He popularized the mullet and then killed it, too.
The coach of the Czech team is a living legend. He was the captain of the Czech Olympic Team that went on to win the 98 Nagano Olympics after beating the US in the quarterfinals, Canada in the semis and Russia in the final. Now he's facing a huge corruption scandal so his name and freedom are on the line here: if the team does well, the public will forget. If the team flops, he will probably be prosecuted.