Building the Herd – Jaroslav Cesky

#39 Jaroslav Cesky

Position: Forward

Born: Praha, Czechia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 10th August

Jaroslav Cesky has had a storied career in British hockey and is now back for a second stint in Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Every now and then, Doug Sheppard throws a curveball into the mix when signing a Bison roster. With 2 players left to sign, Sheppard has announced that the second import on the team will see the return to Basingstoke of veteran Czech forward, Jaroslav Cesky.

39 year old Cesky is a veteran of British hockey having played in Britain since 2009 and has played EIHL, EPL and NIHL in his time in this country.

After a season in the American based USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Cesky won a scholarship in 2000 to Augsburg College in Minnesota, an NCAA division 3 hockey programme where he was one of the team’s star players. Cesky, who was made the captain in his final season with the Auggies, scored 140 points in 102 games and was the team’s leading scorer as captain in 2002/03.

After finishing his time at university, Cesky headed into the professional ranks in North America. After a season with Adirondack in the old United Hockey League, Cesky moved to the Central Hockey League and spent 2 and a half successful seasons with the Tulsa Oilers tallying over 120 points before a deadline deal trade to the Oklahoma City Blazers for a deep playoff run that sadly fell short. Cesky finished his CHL time with 161 points in 179 games.

After his run in Oklahoma was done, Cesky played his last season in North America with the Flint Generals of the IHL before moving back to Europe and Chamonix in France for the 2008/09 campaign.

It was in France that Cesky met fellow Czech national, Michal Pinc. The two signed for the Bracknell for 2009/10 and proceeded to set the EPIHL on fire. Cesky tallied 119 points and was the EPL player of the year whilst Pinc finished with 109 points.

Cesky and Pinc, along with linemate Nicky Watt, returned to Bracknell for a second season where Cesky scored 81 points before the trio moved en masse to Swindon where Cesky scored 64 points for the Wildcats.

Cesky moved alone to Shropshire to start 2012/13 to play for Telford but after 10 games in Shropshire he moved to Basingstoke in a straight swap for defenceman Tomas Fojtek. Cesky scored 48 points in 41 games for the Herd and helped the team to their first ever Coventry playoff weekend.

2013/14 was a mixed year for Cesky. He played the first half of the season in Peterborough, scoring 34 points in 29 games before being released. A brief spell in Manchester with the Phoenix then saw him spend 15 games in Edinburgh before finishing out the season with 12 games in Cardiff with the Devils.

With him being based in the south of England, Cesky stepped into the NIHL for the first time in 2014 as he joined Jeremy Cornish and the Wightlink Raiders. A popular player with the Ryde faithful, Cesky posted back to back 60 plus point seasons with the Raiders as well as winning the playoffs in 2015 and was a 2016 first team NIHL 1 South all-star.

Cesky returned to the Raiders to start last season but with the untimely demise of the Isle of Wight team, Cesky moved to the Oxford City Stars where he posted 31 points in 21 games to finish out the year.

In 2002 whilst back home in Prague, Cesky played a part in the apprehension of an individual in the Prague subway system who had killed one police officer and had injured another as well as a 74 year old bystander. Cesky was awarded the Czech Republic’s Medal for Heroism for his actions.

It’s easy to look at this signing and see what we think is Jaroslav Cesky. When people think of Jaroslav Cesky the hockey player, they only see the player who tore the league apart at Bracknell and Swindon. He’s the former EPIHL player of the year with a 119 point season. There seems to be no accounting for time or adaptation or slowing down and the part that they play in a hockey career.

The Bison have never been an old team in terms of age. There have always been experienced players but adding a 39 year old forward heading towards the end of his playing career seems an odd choice for Doug Sheppard.

However to do that is to not see the player or this roster in context. Jaroslav Cesky is no longer that player that you remember. He is half an inch slower, he isn’t the same as he was a decade ago. However the hockey brain is still there. It was a trait that Sheppard banked on with Rene Jarolin and he’s banking on it again in 2017/18.

Cesky has a lot of good qualities; a natural playmaker, with the right wingers around him he should prove a potent attacking force in terms of setup play and the occasional goal. What he doesn’t need to be that was expected of him at other clubs is that go-to guy. He doesn’t need to be the focal point of the attack any more.

That’s not to say that Cesky can coast in any way, Doug Sheppard won’t allow that, but what it means is that he can play a bit of hockey and not need to be the guy. He doesn’t need to be playing 20-30 minutes a night and on all the powerplays and penalty kills. The British depth (and still one British forward to come remember) and Tomas Karpov allows Cesky to be a role player rather than being one of those players that needs to be used in every situation. He can an experienced hand, he can be that guy that younger players play with for a bit of guidance.

Many people are quick to turn their noses up at this signing by saying that Cesky’s old (he is for a hockey player), that he’s past it (still over a point per game for the most part) and that this is a desperation signing from the Bison.

The Herd have signed an experienced import with a proven track record for scoring that is based locally so they don’t have to house him and will be crucial depth rather than the spearhead of the scoring. I’m not sure what’s the problem with that given the makeup of this roster and the depth of talent and role players it has.

Welcome back, Jaro.

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