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Hockey star gives back to Slovakian hometown

by Archives March 24, 2009

Almost 2,000 years ago, under the reign of the Roman Empire, a small town named Laugaricio was founded in Slovakia, the very heart of Europe. In the middle of it stands a beautiful castle, which used to be the seat of oligarchs. At the sight a visiting tourist today would perhaps expect to some kind of medieval knight tournament, but what in is now called the town of Trencin the main attraction isn’t the castle, it’s a hockey rink.
To most Canadians, the J&T Rink wouldn’t seem much out of the ordinary, unless they knew the story, and the people, behind it.
The first time I entered the hockey rink was also the first time I met her. There was something about this woman, the expression in her eyes, her mannerisms, and even the tone of her broken English that made me realize she was a proud and happy mother.
The mysterious woman was the mother of NHL hockey star Marian Gaborik, the right winger for the Minnesota Wild. He is also the first successful Slovak sportsman, who invested more than USD $2 million in building Trencin’s hockey rink, which is managed by his entire family for the benefit of the town’s residents.
Gaborik’s mother said it wasn’t always easy raising a future NHL star, “I had to wake up three times a week at 5 a.m. to take my son to the hockey rink for his training. It was hard, but I did it because I love him. At that time I didn’t know anything about NHL.”
J&T Rink has not only influenced Gaborik’s life and career, but also those of everyone living in Trencin. The rink offers hockey training at an affordable price and free skating, not to mention its sports shop, fitness centre, coffee shop and accommodations for tourists.
When I asked Trencin families what they thought of J&T Rink, all I heard were positive comments.
Seven-year-old Tomas Hajak said, “I’m now in Marian hockey school and I want to be just like [Gaborik].”
Ten-year-old Natasha Rinkova said, “My parents couldn’t believe that public skating is free. They have never seen that before.”
Peter Klika, who lives near J&T Rink said, “Not a long time ago youngsters were wandering aimlessly around here. Sitting and smoking, they were always up to something no good. Look today and you see parents with their kids, youngsters, teenagers and adults, all very busy running around with their hockey bags. It was certainly a good thing to build a hockey rink in this part of our town.”

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