It is in part a new era for UConn men’s hockey. Coach Mike Cavanaugh brought in a freshman class that is 12-deep. While New York Islanders second round pick Ruslan Ishakhov garnered much hype, Jachym Kondelik, a freshman from Budejovice in the Czech Republic, actually leads the entire team in points with one goal and 12 assists in 15 games. The big man has introduced himself to the UConn faithful with his play, but get to know him a little bit off the ice as part of our Athlete Spotlight series.
Matt Barresi: First things first, your height. UConn lists you at 6-foot-5. NHL.com says you’re 6-foot-6. Neutral Zone, a scouting website, says 6-foot-7. I need an official measurement
Jachym Kondelik: I think 6-foot-6 is the correct height.
MB: Similarly, across different websites you are listed as being from the Czech Republic and Germany. What are your ties to each nation?
JK: My dad played hockey in Germany, so I was there during the hockey season and back (in the Czech Republic) in the summer. My parents are from the Czech Republic, but I was born in Germany. I consider myself a Czech. Still, it was a nice time in Germany growing up.
MB: You were recently named to the player pool for the Czech Republic’s entry in the 2020 World Junior Classic. What are you hoping to get out of that experience?
JK: I just hope it is going to improve me as a player because I will be going against top players from Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Finland. All those players are high draft picks and hopefully make me better. We want to have some success because we have a really strong team. We have some first rounders and even the guys who weren’t drafted are very good.
MB: You have played in tournaments representing your country before. Can you describe what that experience is like?
JK: It is a big honor. A huge honor to represent your country not just on the ice but off it. You have to behave right and respect the fact that you are wearing the jersey of your country. It’s a big experience.
MB: Last hockey-specific question. How would you describe yourself as a player?
JK: I am a playmaker and a two-way forward.
MB: Got it. Coming from Europe and then playing in the Midwest, what did you know about UConn before deciding to come here?
JK: Tomas Vomacka, a goaltender here (and a fellow Czech), told me he was going here so I scheduled a visit because they were interested in me too. I really liked it here. All the guys were saying great things. I really liked the coaching staff. I got to watch a practice and it was really high paced. I just became interested in trying to help this program get to be a top program which I think it should be.
MB: Growing up were there any aspects of American pop culture, music, TV shows, movies, et cetera that you liked?
JK: I was watching “The Simpsons” a lot. For music I was listening to all the popular music because the songs that were popular here were popular back home too.
MB: How about more recently. What music do you listen to these days?
JK: Mostly pop, rap and country. Coldplay a lot.
MB: What is the best, or your favorite, movie you have seen?
JK: “Shawshank Redemption.”
MB: Did you watch the NHL growing up? Who were your favorite teams and players to follow?
JK: Yeah definitely. I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins a lot and I really liked Sidney Crosby.
MB: Okay I lied about the last hockey question. Did you try to model your game or copy any players who you watched growing up?
JK: I was always trying to be a two-way player, so Patrice Bergeron was one I really look up to. Martin Hanzal is from the Czech Republic and plays the same way; he’s good at faceoffs. I try to look up to those guys.
MB: Hockey is obviously very time-consuming, but when you have free time, what are some of your favorite things to do here at UConn?
JK: When we are not gaming, which is a lot, we will go watch a movie or go out for dinner. Even just take a late-night walk and talk with the guys. It’s always fun to be with the boys.
MB: Have you picked a major yet? If so, why?
JK: Not yet. Right now, I am just trying to pass all my courses and get through the first year before I start looking ahead. I’m not even sure about what all the majors are yet.
MB: Assuming hockey is off the table, what other careers would you want to do and why?
JK: I think I would like to be a musician.
MB: A couple quick hitters. Do you have a favorite meal and/or meal spot here in Storrs?
JK: Quesadillas. I get them from Putnam. Or we get Wings Over a lot.
MB: What about pregame superstitions? Anything that you do before every game?
JK: I always dress my left side first. So left skate, then right skate. Left shin pad, then the right shin pad. Stuff like that.
MB: What is the social media platform you use the most and why?
JK: Instagram probably the most because it is the most popular back home, then Snapchat. Twitter is not that popular back home.
MB: Do you have a celebrity crush?
JK: Selena Gomez.
MB: Last question. What is one thing you or the team are working on in order to have a successful season?
JK: Just not worrying about wins and losses. Right now, we are so worried about “Oh we need to win that game,” especially when we’re up, then we sometimes screw up and start making bad plays instead of the right plays. Right now, we are just focused on going out there, playing the right way, having fun and enjoying hockey. That’s why we play hockey, because we all love it, and that’s the most important thing for us right now.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.