Edinburgh Capitals player-coach Michal Dobron will play his 1000th professional ice hockey match tonight when the Murrayfield men travel to Sheffield Steelers on Elite League business.
It’s a fantastic personal achievement for the 37-year-old former Czech internationalist in a career that has spanned 20 years.
Dobron, who ahead of the milestone was presented with a quaich and a painting by the Edinburgh Capitals Supporters Club after Saturday’s 3-2 home win over Dundee Stars, said: “First off, I’d like to say what an important game this is for us as a team. We need to take as many points as possible if we want to make the play-offs. But, for me, to play my one thousandth professional game is a great moment and makes me very happy”
Dobron won three Czech Extra Liga titles with Sparta Prague and HC Karlov Vary and – prior to his first year as a Capital in 2012 – a Slovakian championship with Slovan Bratislava. He continued: “Obviously, winning league titles in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were highlights but I’ve enjoyed every season I’ve played. I’ve had a couple of bad injuries along the way but I’ve always managed to come back and right now I feel great.”
Dobron revealed it was wife Gabriela who alerted Capitals fans to the milestone and it was only fitting his feat was recognised in front of his family, who visited from their Prague home over the festive period.
Dobron said: “It was my wife’s idea and I knew nothing about it. It was a great surprise. I just want to say thank you to my family and to the Edinburgh fans, it made me very happy.
“You need a strong family because without their support you can’t do this. Also, you can’t just switch off in April when the season is over. You need to work on yourself all year, and all the work you do in the summer to prepare for each new season is very important.”
Of course, the role of Edinburgh Capitals player-coach, is rarely a bed of roses, the small-budget club often presenting the position-holder with a unique set of challenges. Caps currently sit three points adrift at the foot of the table, and seven points off the pace of their end of season goal, a play-off place.
Dobron, who returned for a second stint with Edinburgh last summer, signing a one year deal to replace Riley Emmerson, said: “I enjoy it every day here. Right now, we’re in a tough situation, but you need to keep believing, because every game is different and gives you a chance to achieve something.”
The Caps fans’ favourite, who has also played professionally in France, should pass 150 Edinburgh appearances before the end of the season. He admits he does not know what the future holds, but he doesn’t want to hang up the skates quite yet.
“I believe I can continue to play, though it’s not really a question for me to answer, but I’d be happy to continue my work with the Edinburgh Capitals,” said Dobron.
Caps will travel to Sheffield minus Taylor MacDougall and Jared Staal. However, Staal, who suffered a concussion courtesy of a cheap shot from Braehead Clan forward Corey Cowick, returned to training this week and could feature as early as Saturday – ironically against Braehead in Glasgow.
It’s only fitting that the Edinburgh players, who face a tough task against third-placed Steelers put in a far-more-committed performance for their coach than the disappointing 6-0 reverse suffered in the return game at Dundee on Sunday.
Capitals co-owner Scott Neil said: “1000 games is a great achievement for Michal, but you’ve got to remember the majority of those were played at a very high level. The fact that he has 650 Czech Extra Liga games to his name is a feat in itself and a real credit to the man.
“I spent a lot of time this week looking at the tape of the game at Dundee. It’s clear that special teams cost us, and it’s something we need to see a sharp improvement tonight and for the remainder of the season.”