Hockey player Lukáš Rousek received a dream gift for his 22nd birthday. He signed a two-year contract with Buffalo, which drafted him in 2019. In an interview for LP-Life.com, the talented forward talked not only about his first NHL contract, but also about his hobbies outside of ice hockey. At the same time, Lukáš told us how it is with women in his life at the moment and whether he will live on his own overseas!
Lukáš, it's been a few days since you signed your Buffalo contract. Has the euphoria subsided, or are you still in a state of disbelief?
The euphoria has subsided a bit, but at first, I couldn't believe that it had worked out for me and that I'd fulfilled another dream I had, and I'm glad for that, but now I'm on my feet again and I know that road to NHL is still long, so I'm starting to prepare and hope to play there one day.
Buffalo had until the end of May to sign you up, otherwise, you would have become a free player. How difficult was it for you to balance the Sparta playoffs and dealing with your future?
I left it to my agents, both Czech and American, to handle it for me, because I wanted to devote myself to the playoffs in order to make Sparta as successful as possible. So I left it purely up to them, and after the fourth match with Liberec, they called me to say that it was happening and that I would be signing the contract after the season.
Until a few weeks ago, you were on the road to moving to Finland, and only then did the negotiations with Buffalo move forward. So did you agree with the agents that if Buffalo didn't work out, you would go to Finland, or did you still have a contingency plan in reserve?
Finland had priority, we were banking on it the most, then the US said that they might be interested, and Sparta was there too, so there were three teams in the game. But then Buffalo contacted us, so it was solved, because it had been my goal and a dream, so I'm glad it came true.
And if that hadn't worked out for you, would you end up in Finland, or would you most likely renew your contract with Sparta?
It would definitely be a difficult decision, because I didn't really know it myself. I asked different people what they would recommend. Someone told me to stay, someone told me to leave, so it was hard.
And what did your father, the former professional hockey player Martin Rousek, who never got into the NHL, tell you?
Dad left it mostly up to me, but he was more inclined to recommend that I try and get signed abroad.
Your contract in the NHL is a two-way one. Can you explain to our readers what that means?
A two-way contract means you can play both on the farm team and on the main team, but if it was one-way, you only play at the top, or you can have a farm team and the main team.
Are you sad that you can't say goodbye to Sparta fans because of the coronavirus pandemic?
I'm definitely sad because I've been here since I was 18! I spent 4 years here and all of my senior hockey career so far, so it was sad for me that I couldn't say goodbye to them, but I hope there will be some more options.
You had problems with low self-esteem in your early days in Sparta. How much do faith do you currently have in yourself that the A-team overseas will work out?
At the beginning it was difficult for me, because I came from Letňany as a teenager, in reality, I'd only played a few matches in the junior league, so I didn't know how to approach it, how to play and not be afraid. Now I know that my self-confidence has been in a completely different league for the last two years, I've believed in myself more and more, but of course, I know that the NHL is the NHL, they have the best players from all over the world, so it will be in a different league too. I wonder how my conscience will deal with it again.
What did your dad say?
He was thrilled that I had succeeded, but he kept telling me he'd won more championships than I did. So until I beat him, he won't get out of my hair. (laughs)
It is true that he won two championships with Sparta. Did he give you any valuable advice for your hockey life?
He's been giving me those from an early age, but mostly it's like, so I'm not afraid to play and show everyone what's I've got.
Have you always been an obedient son, or have you been a bit of a handful at times?
So from the age of 15 to 17, I was a handful in the sense that I had my opinions and I have all that much faith in it, but last year in Letňany I completely flipped my attitude, I started to believe and I think that thanks to that I progressed in my overall hockey career where I have progressed.
So no alcohol or cigarettes?
No, not at all, I hardly even drink. The other day I had a few drinks after my last season with Sparta, the contract was signed, my birthday came, so I had a little bit of a drink for two or three days. But that's the end of it, now I'm back to my old ways again.
When are you flying to America?
I do not have exact dates yet, because the pandemic is terrible at this time. I'm waiting for the situation to develop and to see how they will play in America next season, but I will probably be flying there for a week at the end of June and permanently at the turn of August and September.
Will you live on your own there?
I will definitely fly there on my own and live there either on my own or with a teammate, depends what we agree on.
Didn't you have a longtime girlfriend though, unless I'm mistaken?
Yes, I had a girlfriend for over three years, but we broke up in December because it wasn't working for us anymore. But after the breakup, I devoted myself fully to hockey and I think it helped me. The girl was great, but I knew that if it didn't work out, it wouldn't be worth it, because I would be devoting my attention to things other than hockey, so we put an end to it and I'm into hockey 100% now.
Are you still in touch?
We are not in touch.
Are you open to a relationship with an American, or would you rather invite a Czech girl to America and keep her there?
I would rather have a Czech girl who would fly there with me, but I have some three months to do it, so I have to hurry. I not really dating anyone right now.
Do girls contact you more often now?
Yes, girls contact me a little more often, but I honestly think that they are more interested in my future than in me as a person.
Should your partner watch hockey and come support you at your matches?
Yes, I like it when a girl watches hockey, and goes to every game if she has the time. So I personally would definitely want such a girlfriend.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like additional sports. I like football, tennis and the usual Playstation.
Do you watch any other sports besides hockey?
I often watch football, I watch the Czech league, which I quite enjoy. And otherwise, I also watch floorball or handball, those have playoff matches now too, so I also watch that.
Who do you support in football?
I support Sparta, I'd like them to win the most. I'm a Spartan and we want each other to win. I watch them regularly and hope they win.
Do you think Sparta will get into the preliminary rounds of the Champions League?
I hope so. They're getting better under Pavel Vrba, he is an excellent coach. They will get stronger in the summer and I think there is a good chance that they will once again return to where they want to go.
Have you ever thought you'd rather be a football player?
It's hard. I like both sports and I played until I was thirteen, then I decided to play hockey instead. I could have opted for football and no one knows how it would have turned out, so I certainly wouldn't change it.
Which sport do you think is more dangerous?
Probably hockey, because the puck hurts more when you get hit in the face with it, and it often hurts despite the shield. Football players, on the other hand, have pretty those sharp plugs on the football boots, so it's also not pleasant. Every sport has its risks.
You bowed out of the national team because of ankle problems. What exactly are your ankle problems?
I have been dealing with these growths for three years now, and now it is so bad that my entire feet have swollen up and I have not been able to put my feet in the ice skates, so I played the last few matches on painkillers, icing and taping. It wasn't really it, so we decided that I'd have some rest and have some exams done in order to be ready for America.
Aren't you afraid that it could significantly affect your future career?
I hope not. We talked honestly with the coaches and we said our piece on what's going on with me. If there was even a possibility, I would definitely join the representation, because at my age I would definitely not decline just like that, but for serious reasons, I could not go.