Para hockey is full of stories that reveal life to the core. Moreover, these stories do not begin in any idyllic way either. The 22-year-old Patrik Sedláček, forward and now the goalkeeper of the Czech para hockey national team, overcame another one of his challenges. The Sport.cz reporter, Jiří Tomaškovič, mapped his path at para hockey and his changing positions on the ice.
It’s as if the Karlovy Vary hockey forward Jiří Černoch suddenly decided that he would no longer play a forward on the national team, but would move to the goal. Our para hockey representative Patrik Sedláček took exactly the same path. While at this year’s World Championship in Canada – Sedláček scored goals and helped the Czech Republic to a historic bronze medal; at the IPH tournament, which is currently being held in Ostrava, he reigns in the goal of the Czech national team. “When I was healthy and had legs, I was a goalie. I used to be a goalie while playing floorball and also soccer; I was always somehow drawn to the goal. Even before the World Championship, I went to try it out a few times because we didn’t have a goalkeeper at practice and I liked it there,” says the 22-year-old Sedláček.
At first, the coaches of the national team did not like the idea of the talented player moving from forward to goaltender. “When I heard that idea, I wasn’t happy about it because Patrik played the last World Championship for us as the first centre. I thought to myself – really…from the first centre onto the goal?” the coach of the national team, Jakub Novotný, himself a former goalkeeper, admitted his doubts. “But Patrik is doing well so far. He was putting everything he could into the game and he’s putting just as much into catching now. I feel that there is something extra, that he could be a good goalkeeper. We supported him and we will continue to support him. It is also good because it can create competition for Martin Kudela and Michal Vápenka,” says Novotný.
Sedláček has played three matches in Ostrava at the IPH Cup tournament so far – In the jersey of the European selection team called IPH, against the USA (1-6) and a day later, as the goalkeeper of the Czech national team, facing shots from the players of the IPH team he played for. Thanks to him, the Czechs won 2:1 after a shootout and he excelled even in the third match, when as the goalkeeper of the IPH team he kept a valuable 7-5 victory over Canada. “I had a lot of fun and I felt good in the goal, although of course I was nervous. It’s a different responsibility than in the position of a forward, where you play a forty-five second play and then go switch. I’m in the goal the whole match and a small mistake can decide that the whole team is angry with you,” smiles Sedláček. The participant of the Paralympic Games in Beijing (2022) and two World Championships (2021 and 2023) believes that in the goal he can help the Czech team to win another medal from a major tournament. “This is a big challenge. We’ll see how the coaches react to it and whether they’ll leave me in the goal or not,” says the para hockey player.
Patrik Sedláček as a forward at the World Championship in Canada
Returning to the spot of a forward would probably not throw him off. After all, in the Sharks Karlovy Vary team, whose colours he defends in the para hockey league, he will continue to ride in his sled in his usual forward position. “We have two goalkeepers there. I take it as a kind of diversion for me that I won’t stay in the goal completely. I can play normally as a forward, but I have a big handicap due to my medical complications. I had my whole stomach ripped open and my abdominal muscles cut, which we need a lot in this sport and so I’m not that fast or agile,” Sedláček describes.
“On the contrary, it doesn’t matter so much in the goal. In addition, I catch in a kind of Canadian style and I take up more space in the goal than the other guys from the Czech national team. So I can bring something new to it,” reflects Sedláček, who took up para sports after a serious illness and subsequent amputation of his right leg four years ago. “I had a double pulmonary embolism and thrombosis at the age of seventeen. No oxygen was going to my brain, my heart stopped and the doctors resuscitated me for about 45 minutes. I was really close to dying. Practically all the organs in my body were shutting down, and the people in the hospital gave me one percent that I would survive; and if I did survive, they said that I’ll be bed-bound for life,” Sedláček returns to the moment that completely overturned his life’s priorities. “The fact that I was able to do it thanks to my family is my biggest win. Although it took some time, now I’m relatively healthy and I’m enjoying everything that life has to offer,” emphasizes para hockey representative Patrik Sedláček.
Text: Jiří Tomaškovič Photos: WPIH/ Český para hokej