There has never been a more famous 37-year-old rookie in sports and likely never will. After retiring from soccer following the 2018-19 season, many assumed that legendary Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech’s playing days were over. They were only partly right. While he may be done on the pitch, Cech is just beginning his career on the ice. He made the exciting and astonishing announcement today that he has joined the Guildford Phoenix of the U.K.’s National Ice Hockey League Division 2 on a one-year contract.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to play with the Phoenix to get the match experience. I hope I can help this young team to achieve their goals for the season and try to win as many games as possible when I have the chance to play. After 20 years of professional football, this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid.
Cech, pronounced just like his nationality, hails from a country where hockey is far more prevalent than soccer. However, he did not let that stop him from becoming one of the best all-time at his position. Cech reached England’s Premier League in 2004, signing with the iconic club Chelsea at just 22 years old. Cech spent 11 years with Chelsea, appearing in 333 matches, establishing himself as one of the top keepers in the world. He then joined rival club Arsensal for the past four years before retiring from the sport and returning to work as an advisor for Chelsea. During his career, he also made over 100 appearances internationally for the Czech Republic and played a major role in the growth of the game in his native country.
While Cech is a known renaissance man – a noted musician and a speaker of five languages on top of his athletic prowess – this venture into hockey does not appear to be just a notch on his belt or a publicity stunt of any kind. Cech has reported been working on his game for several years and has previously participated in exhibition events and celebrity games. At 6’5”, he has great size, especially now guarding a much smaller net, and playing an elite level of soccer for many years certainly hasn’t hurt his reflexes. The team is taking the addition seriously as well. The press release called Cech’s addition “massive” and noted that they have been monitoring his improvement. Cech is slated to make his debut almost immediately on Saturday.
While obviously no one is expecting Cech to make it to the NHL and perhaps not even the top level in the U.K., there is no doubting that this is a great opportunity for the game. The potential for soccer fans, especially those in a non-traditional hockey market like the U.K., to follow Cech’s attempt to move into hockey is bound to create new fans and possibly some new players as well. His fame will also call attention to the sport throughout Europe. Regardless of how he performs, it will be great to follow a soccer legend as he tries his hand at his childhood passion and perhaps changes the landscape of yet another sport.