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Iceman Ales Kratoska has made Adelaide his home

Born in a small town in the Czech Republic, Adelaide Adrenaline forward Ales Kratoska finished the 2018 Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) as the team’s leading points scorer. He went One on One with Tom Staggard to discuss his move to Australia and what he hopes to achieve in the upcoming AIHL season.

Tom Staggard: Can you tell me a bit about your background and where you grew up?

Ales Kratoska: I’m from the Czech Republic, from a small town in South Bohemia around about 90km south of Prague.

I started playing hockey there.

My father was a professional hockey player in the Czech Republic and he played all around Europe.

So my family travelled heavily around Europe when I was younger. I’ve been here for about two years already so this season will be my third.

TS: What made you decide to come to Australia?

AK: I came here just for holidays and to play a bit of hockey.

I also came over because I really wanted to learn English because I didn’t speak any other languages aside from Czech.

For the first four months I started just studying English and after that I was offered a job in the Ice Factor program coaching the younger kids and I’m still here.

TS: What was family life like for you with your dad travelling around so much?

AK: I have a younger sister who has just turned 18 and we were travelling every second year to a brand new city.

We lived in a number of places around Europe.

We moved to Norway, Finland, Germany and a lot of places around the Czech Republic.

TS: What is it about Adelaide that you like so much?

AK: I really like the hot weather, the lifestyle and the people.

I live at West Beach and it’s been really great to experience this city.

TS: What kind of teammate are you on the ice?

AK: We have a really young team so I’m really trying to help the younger players and help them improve themselves.

It’s very hard because we’re not able to have as many practices as we should but we all work hard to make each other better.

TS: How does the sport of hockey in Australia differ in the way that it is played in the Czech Republic?

AK: It’s a little bit different level but I guess that depends on which league you’re playing in.

European players are probably a little more tricky or clever with the puck than the Australian players.

If you watch the sport you can see the European players have developed their skills quite a lot, while you see Canadian players are so quick and speedy.

It’s very different here to overseas for sure.

TS: How do you feel the team is travelling at the moment as it gears up for the new season.

AK: We’re getting better slowly which is good to see.

It’s still pre-season so we’ve got a lot of time to improve on our skills and hopefully that’ll translate out on the ice.

TS: You mentioned your family earlier, have they come out to Australia to watch you play?

AK: No, they’re all living back in the Czech Republic but I would like them to come over and see what Australia is like.

TS: What was the move to Australia like for you? Was it quite intimidating moving to a country where you didn’t speak the language with no family behind you?

AK: Yeah the first couple of months were really hard. Joey (Rezek) is from the Czech Republic too and he acted as my personal translator to help me fit in at first – he still does act as my translator from time to time.

He helped me a lot and that may be the reason why I stayed here.

He assisted me to make friends here and that really helped with my move.

TS: What do you enjoy about coaching the youngsters and passing on your skills to them?

AK: It’s great.

I’m out here coaching the Ice Factor kids on Mondays and Fridays and then when the season starts I’ll be playing games on Saturday and Sunday so I’m not working before playing. It’s good.

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Tom grew up in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and is our resident North American sports expert. Tom has experience as a working journalist and has a keen interest in basketball, ice hockey and American football, as well as cricket, soccer and football. He spent his junior cricket career at East Torrens District and has played for a number of football clubs across Adelaide’s north.