9.2.19 Derek O´Brien

New players debuted for Sparta in January

In January, three new players joined HC SPARTA PRAGUE – Latvian winger Roberts Burkarts, Czech-American forward Kevin Klíma and Czech goaltender Jakub Sedláček. As well, veteran Czech forward Jaroslav Hlinka is practicing with the team.

Roberts Burkarts

Burkarts, 28, moved to the capital from Oceláři Třinec and has two assists in his first four games with Sparta. Previously, he played in Zlín and is now in his fourth Extraliga season. Before that, he played parts of seven seasons with hometown Dinamo Riga in the KHL. A veteran of the Latvian national team, he has played in six World Championships and was the team captain last year in Denmark.

“Roberts is a help to our offence, plus he’s right-handed, which was missing from our lineup due to Robert Říčka´s injury,” said head coach Uwe Krupp. “He can play up front alongside Lukáš Pech and Miroslav Forman. He is also able to help us in many other situations.”

“To be honest, I didn’t know much about Sparta before I arrived, but it felt like home right away, so it was no problem,” Burkarts said about being welcomed by his new teammates. “Just play hockey. I just need to try my best every game and help the team get into playoffs - it’s as simple as that.”

Kevin Klíma

Klíma, 21, is the U.S.-born son of former Czech NHLer Petr Klíma. After playing his junior hockey in Canada and splitting his first pro season between the AHL and ECHL all with twin brother Kelly, Kevin is now in playing in the country of his roots. After stops in Kadaň and Chomutov, he has five points in nine games with Sparta.

“Kevin is a fast, confident forward who can be used at centre and on the wing, so we expect that he will bring a bit more speed and productivity to our game,” said sports manager Michal Broš.

“I´d played hockey my whole life in North America, so I wanted to go to Europe and learn how to play European hockey. I wanted to improve skating and technique,” Klíma said of his decision.

Jakub Sedláček

Sedláček, 28, comes to Sparta to provide the team with a solid one-two punch in goal along with Matěj Machovský. He hails from Zlín and began his pro career there, but since then has played in the KHL – where he was a teammate of Burkarts in Riga – and the EBEL before returning to Zlín this season. In four appearances with Sparta so far, he has been great, with a 1.72 goals-against average, 93.81 save percentage, and recorded a shutout last Friday night against Vitkovice.

"We had the opportunity to acquire Jakub on loan until the end of the season, so we decided to strengthen ourselves at that position with an experienced goalie before the busy last few weeks of the schedule,” explained Broš, who reiterated that Machovský is not being replaced.

“I know a lot of the guys – Tomáš Voráček, Richard Jarůšek, maybe Jan Piskáček. In Zlín, I played with Robert Říčka and of course I know the goalies. I know who most of them are because we’ve played against Sparta several times, so there was no problem in the dressing room,” Sedláček said about his arrival. “I arrived there, met the boys and everyone was nice to me.”

Jaroslav Hlinka

What needs to be said about Hlinka? The 42-year-old is Sparta’s all-time leader in points, assists and games played, and retired at the end of last season. However, he came back mid-season to play five games for HC Vrchlabí in the 2nd League, where he recorded three assists. Now, he’s practicing with Sparta and we could see him play soon, at least on a part-time basis.

“Taking into account the fact that we have the youngest player in the Extraliga and sometimes we have no experience in tough moments of the games, we’ve agreed with Jarda on the possibility of his alternating games with Sparta,” Broš explained. “We thank the representatives of the Vrchlabí club for their cooperation.”

“It´s so nice to be back in our dressing room, which I know well, of course, and we´ll see what my particular role it is,” said Hlinka. “I’ve been coming here every day for my son, so I’ve been watching the boys on the ice, and I´ll try to make the most of our team.”

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