Zimní stadion Eden
Zimní Stadion Eden
When I travelled to
Prague in February, 2004, I expected to arrive at one of the
hockey-hotbeds of the European continent. The Czech. Rep always comes up
with great teams at the world championships or the recent Olympics, a ton
of great NHL players have their roots there and Prague, the nation’s
capital, has two of the best teams in the Extraliga, the highest league of
Czech hockey. But were those teams able to meet my expectations?
Not really, it was
not even close. Whoever wants to see good hockey in Prague will wind up at
the home of HS Slavia or HC Sparta Praha. Anyone who ventures there, and
not many do, will see good hockey played on a level that is by no means
worse than in Germany or other good leagues in Europe. The problems arise
with the atmosphere when you’re there, no matter how many homepages on
the internet tell you that hockey is the nation’s favourite sport. They
do a great job of hiding their passion…
Slavia Praha has only recently become one of the top teams of the country and is currently playing on the same level as Sparta Praha, the capital's long-time top team. By comparison to Sparta Slavia is the "new kid on the block", at least when it comes to the number of fans and the infrastructure.
Slavia's home is the Zimní Stadion Eden, which is a pretty ugly and worn down concrete block without any kind of comfort. Only the bathrooms were cleaner than in Sparta's T-Mobile Arena, but all in all there is not a lot of positive features I can come up with. The arena is divided into a standing and a seating straight, at the ends of the ice there are no sections. One one end one can find a restaurant from where it is possible to enjoy the game as well, on the other end a small number of "suites" exist. There are a few standing places on the site with the restaurant as the concourse is located there but it basically comes down to the two straights.
When I went to Slavia Praha in February 2004 the prices were just incredible. I paid only 50 Kronen (about 1.45 €) for a standing room ticket, which makes this the cheapest ticket I have ever bought for anything. Seats cost a 100 but are always sold out, at least an online-guide for Prague said that. There were also no seats available, so I would believe that site.
There is not a lot to write about the surroundings of the building. There are some really cheap stalls where you can buy food and beer but I would not go there hungry as the stalls are not really all that inviting. They can't do a lot wrong with the beer, which costed less than an euro, but I wouldn't want to try the food. The stalls kind of reminded me of a trip to Tansania in 2002 where I also didn`t buy food off the street. There are enough great and reasonably cheap places to eat in downtown Prague afterwards...
Right next to the arena is another worn-down building in which you can find three hockey-stores with everything in stock that you can imagine. If you always wanted a Hasek-jersey or any other Hasek & Jagr-stuff you will probably find it. Most items being sold, skates, sticks and so on, are not a lot cheaper than in Germany though. If they're cheaper at all. Nevertheless, living in Oldenburg right now, my town does not have a single hockey store so I could have done some shopping there, if I had needed something.
The game I visited was a derby between Slavia and Sparta, which, at least as far as the atmosphere inside the arena is concerned, should be as good as a game can get (prior to the playoffs) in the Extraliga. Even though the game should have been a "hot ticket" by my expectations I had no problem obtaining a regular ticket at the box office an hour and a half prior to the game. I was already prepared to shell out some more money to a scalper and was more than glad to find none of them. There was also nobody around selling extra seats as I guess that you just can´t make a lot of money out of tickets that don´t cost more than three euros anyways.
The building itself was well alive when the game finally started. The atmosphere was far worse than one is used to in German derbies though and it was only so loud because a small arena holding 5.000 people is even loud when everybody chats with his neighbour. Of course there were the two (small) hardcore fan groups of Sparta and Slavia, but their singing was not really that impressive. There was no atmosphere to speak off before the game started, but I think no fan was willing to raise his voice while extremely loud music poured down on the spectators and made all kinds of conversations hard. I don´t know why the arena-management drowns the spectators in noise out of crackling speakers (that out to be replaced for the safety of one's ears) before the game but I could imagine that with a little less music there would have been some kind of atmosphere instead of the rather dull collective waiting process. After a week in Prague and three sporting events (Slavia and Sparta in hockey and Sparta in soccer) I came to the conclusion, that fans in Prague or maybe even the whole country are not the most energetic I have ever seen though. Basically the atmosphere was average or worse at all events, with Sparta Prague's hockey-game ranking last in that department.
Tipps for visitors:
By comparison to the game at Sparta's T-Mobile Arena I really enjoyed my stay at the Zimní Stadion. I know that the atmosphere was probably a lot better than during a regular game (with my game being against the cross-town rivals from Sparta), but I think that the atmosphere ought to be better at Slavia no matter what. I didn't mind getting no seats and really liked the steep standing straight with its high steps where you weren't watching your frontmen's head throughout the game as in some other arenas (T-Mobile Arena is annoyingly flat as well). You really feel extremly close to the action on the ice and the intimacy seemed to transform itself on the players, who really fought a war on the ice. There were also no hooligans or "critical" fans around, which I really enjoyed (I had different expectations).
Tickets, as I have already mentioned before, should be easy to obtain at all games. I can't imagine anything that could be worse than a Slavia vs Sparta game except some playoff-matchups and it was no problem to get a ticket at all. Both teams were also ranked pretty good in the standings (third and fourth) so that there was no obvious excuse why many regular visitors did not turn up. Don't worry too much about tickets...