Building the Herd – Jaroslav Cesky

#39 Jaroslav Cesky

Position: Forward

Born: Kobyliska, Czech Republic

Announced as signed: Bison website, 30th October


With the news that Bison coach Doug Sheppard was releasing defender Tomas Fojtik and the rumour mill already fully in overdrive for over a week as to who was replacing him, the Herd wasted no time in announcing the signing of Jaroslav Cesky from the Telford Tigers.

Originally from a suburb of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, no stats exist in easy reach from his time in the Czech junior leagues. The first season on record for Cesky is from 1998/99 when he played in the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in America. Cesky played 51 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Illinois on the border with Wisconsin, scoring 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points. That season earned Cesky a scholarship to NCAA Division 3 school Augsburg College based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

During his 4 years with the Auggies, Cesky never scored less than 14 goals in a season and never scored less than 30 points, totalling 140 points in 102 games for Augsburg. During his final season, Cesky was captain of the Auggies, scoring 42 points making him 19th in the nation at NCAA div 3 level. Cesky is also 8th on the Augsburg all time list for penalty minutes.

After finishing his degree, Cesky turned pro with the now defunct Adirondack IceHawks of the old United Hockey League, scoring 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points in 61 games during his time in New York State.

Cesky then moved to the Central Hockey League and the Tulsa Oilers where he spent the majority of the next 3 seasons. After a productive 2004/05 season where he scored 42 points in 59 games, Cesky had a breakout year in 2005/06 where he scored 35 goals and 73 points in 56 games but the Oilers failed to make the post season. The 3rd season with the Oilers started well with 34 points from 33 games before he was dealt midway through the season to the Oklahoma City Blazers, scoring 12 points in 31 regular season games before scoring 5 points in 13 games in the Blazers’ post season run.

2007/08 was Cesky’s last season in North America as he suited up for the Flint Generals in the old International Hockey League (now merged into the CHL). Cesky scored 26 points in 45 games and 2 goals in 5 playoff games before the Generals were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs.

The 2008/09 season was a new adventure for Jaroslav as he ventured over to France and the Ligue Magnus with Chamonix. Chamonix had a forgettable season, finishing 11th and falling in the playoff qualifying rounds but Cesky was the team’s top scorer with 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 24 games. It was also where he would meet Michal Pinc.

Pinky and Perky as they would be called migrated from France to Bracknell for the 2009/10 season where they were a revelation. The Bees finished 9th and missed the playoffs but Cesky scored an astronomical 53 goals in 53 games and 119 points which saw him crowned EPL player of the year and named to the 1st all star team. Cesky’s second season with Bracknell saw the Bees sink to the bottom of the table but Cesky still managed to tally 81 points in 53 games for the Berkshire side.

After two playoff-less seasons in Bracknell, the entire Cesky-Pinc-Nicky Watt line migrated west to Swindon for last season’s campaign. Cesky had his lowest scoring season in Britain to date, 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points in 51 games. He also tallied 1 goal as Swindon fell to Manchester over two legs in the playoff quarter finals.

Cesky signed for Telford in the summer amongst rumours he was heading to a variety of places, including a drop to the Isle of Wight in the ENL. In 10 games in Shropshire, Cesky has tallied 8 goals and 1 assist for 9 points with 3 goals coming in the Tigers’ 3-0 win on Sunday versus Milton Keynes. This also made Cesky the first Tigers player to score in their newly refurbished rink.

For me, every hockey player would have done the same thing. I want to win trophies. That’s the only thing.” Jaroslav Cesky, Tigers TV 30/10/12

We’ve dealt with the why the whole change happened. We’re not going to go over that again. We’re just going to look at what Cesky will add to the team.

When Cesky signed with Telford, a lot of people thought it was because he was on the way down and couldn’t find a team. After 3 seasons in Britain, he’d scored a ton of points but had never played on a team that had finished higher than 7th. Now suddenly he was on a team that was widely predicted to be the basement dwellers and you had to wonder why. Why was a player who averaged over 1.6 points per game not signed till so late in the season and then for a team like Telford who do have a different ethos? Telford is about development and sustainability and I applaud them till my hands are red raw but they aren’t regular title contenders. Why hadn’t Cesky, now a free agent with a record of scoring goals not been picked up by a title contender before the season began?

Honestly? I don’t know.

What Cesky has done is do right by the Tigers organisation, publicly praised them, thanked them for everything but been honest in that he wants to win trophies. He’s chosen Basingstoke as the place to do that. This is a new experience for us.

We’ll work on the assumption that Tony Redmond will move back to play on defence which means a shuffle of players across the forward lines. Cesky has always needed his Pinc. He needs a set up man to feed him and he puts them away and there are a couple of adequate candidates in the Bison side. The question is, where does he fit in?

You could play Cesky with Owen and Chambers. Owen is a fantastic distributor of the puck and combined with Chambers’ creativity would give us a very potent top line. Or you put Cesky alongside Sheppard to add some traditional skill and flair to what has been a tough, gritty, high energy second line. You can then play either Greener, Rand or Miller on that line with the two of them and you end up with two very balanced lines. I don’t think Cesky will play on the third line because given the reasons for signing him, putting him onto what will still be the checking/energy line makes little sense.

Here’s how I think it starts out, we’ll see if I am right: Top line starts as Chambers-Owen-Cesky to have a real power house scoring line. The second line then becomes Sheppard centring Greener and Miller for a really in your face second line that will just charge to the net. Corson-Heron then centres a third line with Melachrino and Rand on the wings and Wynn rotates in as needed. JCH moves the puck, Melachrino works the corners and Rand works the net. This could well be completely and utterly wrong but this is what the signing of Cesky does to the Bison. It fleshes out an already hard working and effective group of forwards with a player who scores like it’s going out of fashion.

It may not be that simple of course. Players form will go up and down and the changes may not work 100% as Sheppard would want them. There will likely be injuries but where we’d normally all worry and panic as to the depth of the squad, we do have genuine depth. Our best forward can also play defence. Our captain is the very definition of a utility player. We have quality imports and Brits to the point where we now have a very good amount of combinations for what to do in terms of forward lines and special teams.

Jaroslav Cesky may not be everyone’s favourite player but the numbers do speak for themselves to some degree. Has his attacking output diminished since he came to Britain? Yes, since his 1st season to last season he has scored nearly 50% less points wise. He was also still over a point per game.

When we’re needing to score goals, why not sign a player who can score lots of goals and thinks we’re the place to win a trophy?

The chance to change anything has passed and Jaroslav is now part of the Herd. Coach Sheppard has some choice to make as to what the team does on the ice but he has given himself a full deck to deal from.

Welcome to Basingstoke, Jaroslav. The net is that way.


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