Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Kladno kids: Frolik and Pavelec

They played hockey together as young boys, play together with the Jets and now Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Frolik are heading to Sochi to represent their country at the Winter Olympics

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WASHINGTON -- It was draft day 2013 -- June 30, to be exact -- when Ondrej Pavelec took a break from running his hockey school in Kladno, his hometown in the Czech Republic, to check on a message from his agent.

And the news instantly brought a grin to his face: Michael Frolik, one of Pavelec's best friends on the planet, had been traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Winnipeg Jets.

"I thought it was a joke at first," said Pavelec. "I went to TSN's website and saw it. I mean, I couldn't believe it. I called him right away. No answer. I think he was still hung over from winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks and all the parties.

"You know, I think he was more shocked than me about the trade because he enjoyed his time in Chicago. But after he had a chance to think about it, we were really excited about the news."

 

-- -- --

Michael Frolik can't remember the exact date, or even the year, when he and Ondrej Pavelec first stepped onto the ice together as kids and future teammates. And ask Pavelec for any background details -- the name of the rink where they met, the team, etc. -- and the questions are met by a shrug of the shoulders.

So, their best guess as to how their friendship first began goes something like this:

Frolik, who is six months younger than Pavelec, grew up in a small village called Kamenne Zehrovice and his mother would regularly drive him into Kladno -- about 10 minutes away -- for practice.

"I don't remember how old we were, maybe six or seven, when I first met him," Frolik recalled. "Back home, the two biggest sports are hockey and soccer. My family, it was always hockey. My father played, my older brother played. It was always about hockey.

"But from that first time we were together and played together a lot. He's one of my best friends. Our parents are close friends, too."

Yes, along the way Pavelec's stepfather, Vaclav Jun, and Stanislav Frolik -- Frolik's father -- would team up to coach the two boys. They went to different schools for the first five years and then attended a hockey academy where they practised in the morning and had class work in the afterward.

"Playing hockey is pretty much what we did," Pavelec said. "We came home from hockey school and we played hockey. We had nothing else... we had soccer, maybe tennis, but when we came home from school was go outside and play hockey until 8-9 o'clock.

"He's younger than me, but he always played with the older guys and he made it to our team. We've been playing together on national teams, under-18, under-20... all the time."

The two would be separated in fall 2005 when Pavelec, not long after being drafted 41st overall by the Atlanta Thrashers, met the GM of the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles -- Pascal Vincent, now an assistant coach with the Jets. Pavelec would spend two years in Nova Scotia, the second of which was against Frolik, a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2006 who had joined the Rimouski Oceanic.

Their debuts in the NHL would follow; Pavelec in 2007, Frolik in 2008. Pavelec has remained with the Thrashers/Jets organization while Frolik bounced from the Panthers to the Blackhawks, where he played a key role in last year's championship.

And then came that draft-day trade last June.

-- -- --

This weekend, Pavelec and Frolik will leave the Jets for Sochi, Russia, where they will play key roles in the Czech Republic's quest for a medal. The Czech roster features seven players from around Kladno: Pavelec, Frolik, Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers, the legendary Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils, Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens and Radko Gudas of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"That's something special, to have that many guys from the same city," said Pavelec. "It's nice that we know each other and it's going to be a good group there."

But none of them have the same bond as Pavelec and Frolik. Two kids who grew up 15 minutes apart, were coached by their fathers, represented the Czech Republic together internationally, followed each other to the QMJHL then to the NHL and now are together with the Jets and on the Olympic team.

That's not coincidence, they will tell you. It's fate.

"And all these years and we haven't got sick of each other yet," said Frolik with a chuckle. "We still hang out, especially on the road."

"We don't talk about it much now," added Pavelec. "But after we are done hockey and have kids and all that stuff I'm sure there will be a day when we'll realize that we made it to the NHL and were able to stay here and play together.

"It's a good story, a fun story, isn't it?"

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2014 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:54 AM CST: Replaces photo

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