UTICA BY WAY OF BRATISLAVAMar 5, 2019
“Maz, we traded you to Vancouver. Good luck.”
That was how Utica Comets goalie Marek Mazanec found out he had been traded from the New York Rangers organization to the Canucks in February.
“I finished my practice and went to the room to get dressed,” Mazanec said. “My phone was ringing and it was the assistant GM calling me. As soon as I saw it I was like ‘okay, where am I going?’”
A surplus of goalies in the organization allowed Mazanec to read between the lines, and a deal felt imminent. When the call came, it was officially time for a new venture. The next call came from Vancouver, and it was go-time on the move.
“They explained they were short on goalies and I had to join the team as soon as possible,” he said. “They booked me a flight at 5:30 p.m. and I had two hours to pack all my stuff and get to the airport. I flew from Hartford to Minneapolis, then Minneapolis to Vancouver to get my Canadian working permit.
“So I got that done, and it was at like two in the morning. I stayed at the airport hotel, got on a flight at 6 a.m. and flew to L.A. to join the team in Anaheim. I even made the practice that morning,” Mazanec laughed.
A Czech native, Mazanec had been in North America since 2013, when he joined the Nashville Predators organization. The big-bodied netminder was drafted by the Predators a year prior. However, he knew there was no future with Nashville after four years, and he made a move to Bratislava (Slovakia) in the KHL.
“They (Nashville) set me free, and I started talking to New York, but it was late in the summer,” Mazanec said. “I needed a contract. Bratislava called and offered a contract for a year. I said ‘okay’ but they only gave me 24 hours to decide.
“So, I waited until the next day to see if New York was going to get back to me and they didn’t. In the morning I signed a contract with Bratislava. Later that afternoon, New York called with the offer.”
He was in Slovakia, but as the season progressed, it became more and more obvious that his team wasn’t going to make the playoffs. Knowing they were out of contention, the team was willing to part ways with Mazanec so he could return to the states.
“New York got back to me and I signed with the Rangers.”
Upon his return to the states, he reported to Hartford, where he finished out the rest of the season. North America was where he wanted to be playing. Maybe the travel of the KHL played a small part in that.
“The travel was insane. You jump on a plane in Bratislava, you fly 12 hours and you get off the plane and you play a game right away. There’s like nine hours of time difference too. You have no idea where you are, what time it is,” he chuckled.
Now a member of the Canucks/Comets organization, and riding busses just a few hours at a time, Mazanec has been introduced to his countryman, Lukas Jasek. At 27 years old, Mazanec anticipates he’ll be looked up to by Jasek, especially as the 21-year-old forward navigates North America and the language.
“I was in his shoes. Four years in Nashville and we didn’t have a single Czech speaking person in the organization,” Mazanec said. “It forced me to learn English really quick.
“But I’m glad to have another Czech person. I’m here for him if he needs me.”