Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has joined National Ice Hockey League team Guildford Phoenix as a goaltender, as he returns to his first love.
The Czech, a big fan of the sport, has got his skates on after working on his game since retiring from football.
37-year-old Petr Cech will play as a goalie (netminder) for Guildford Phoenix which is located close to where he lives. When his Chelsea Football Club schedule allows, he is ready to help them in their league games
“I hope I can help this young team achieve their goals,” Cech, 37, said.
“After 20 years of professional football, this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid.”
Cech, who arrived in Britain in 2004 having signed for the Blues, adopted top-flight Elite Ice Hockey League side Guildford Flames as his team.
Guildford Phoenix plays in the second tier of British ice hockey.
Cech, who made 124 appearances for the Czech Republic, won four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and Europa League during his time as a footballer in England.
He will be the Phoenix’s third-choice keeper and will train when his Chelsea schedule allows.
Posting on Twitter on Wednesday night after the announcement, he said: “Some people seem to think I’ve changed my job. No, I didn’t.
“Luckily my job at Chelsea doesn’t stop me in my spare time from playing the game I loved as a kid and which I’ve been playing for years. While being a professional footballer I couldn’t play the game for obvious reasons. Now I can.”
Andy Hemmings, Guildford’s head coach, said: “The signing of Petr is massive for the Phoenix, he is a great guy who trains hard and I cannot wait to see him make his debut.”
Guildford Phoenix faces Swindon Wildcats 2 in their next National Ice Hockey League fixture on Sunday.
At the age of 13, Cech had to make the decision between pursuing a future in ice hockey or in football, because he simply did not have time to practice both. Since moving to England he has frequently watched ice hockey in Guildford, as well as keeping up to speed with everything going on in the NHL in America.
Back in 1998, the 16-year-old Cech was captivated by his nation, the Czech Republic’s dramatic triumph in that year’s Winter Olympics in Japan. He takes up the story.
‘It was in Nagano so the ice hockey quarter-finals, semi-finals and final were all in the morning, so I didn’t go to school,’ he laughs. ‘We all tried to find a way not to miss it.
‘That year was the first the NHL allowed all the best players to go and participate, so people called it the “Tournament of the Century” because every nation could choose any player they wanted from every competition. This time is the same so it will be exciting.’