THE PARDUBICE PRINCE COMES HOME: ALES HEMSKY SIGNS IN CZECH REPUBLIC DURING NHL LOCKOUT
Edmonton Oilers star right winger Ales Hemsky has, unsurprisingly, signed on to play with his hometown team HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. Hemsky was a star for the club’s junior side at age 16, and following several years in North America – first with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL and then the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL – he returned to the club in 2004-05 during that season’s NHL lockout. Whilst he had an OK regular season that year, he turned it up a notch in the playoffs and was named Playoff MVP as Pardubice won the Championship. I don’t know when his nickname “The Prince of Pardubice” came about and whether it originated in Edmonton or Pardubice, but he certainly earned that moniker that season.
He took that experience and launched himself into being a star NHL player the next year, putting up 77 points for the Oilers in 05-06 and playing a big part in their incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored what could be called the biggest goal for the Oilers since 1990 in the first round against Detroit, when he scored with time running down in Game 6 to ultimately win the game and the series; he had scored the game-tying goal just minutes earlier.
Since then he has continued to dazzle Oiler fans with his fast, smooth skating and puck-wizardry. However, he has come under fire for (a) not shooting enough and (b) being injury prone, and laughably (c) he doesn’t care enough. To the first point, he is a playmaker, not a goalscorer – although he is more than capable of that too. To the second point, yes he has struggled with injury, I will grant that, but that’s due in part to his willingness to go the dirty areas and battle. And to the third point, see my response to the second – Hemsky has long been renowned for going where not all skilled players like to go, and taking on the most feared defenders. That is not someone who doesn’t care.
Whilst for many he has not reached his full potential, i.e. a 90 point scorer, he was actually one of the most productive right-wingers in the entire league from 2005 to around 2010, putting up roughly 0.92 points per game, even though he didn’t have a lot of talent around him to help out. Despite this past season being his first healthy one in a long while, he did struggle, putting up less than 40 points, but it’s more than clear he was still recovering from his multiple shoulder surgeries. He should be a lot healthier from now on, fingers crossed, and whilst I don’t think he’ll be an elite player like before, he’ll still be a damn good one. What people also underestimate is that Hemsky plays amongst the toughest competition on the team and still puts up points, rather than rack up points against poor players.
Best of luck to Hemsky this year with Pardubice, I’ll be tracking him to see how he gets on.