He was on his way to the NHL before the injuries, but in the end he nearly lost his career. When Daniel Přibyl was out for more than four years and didn’t play a league game, many wrote him off. But he didn’t give up. He gritted his teeth and showed that if a person had the will, they could do what seemed impossible. When Přibyl returned to hockey this year, his story was like a fairy tale. A story about which this long and honest conversation speaks.
In the season, you returned to hockey after almost five years. Not feeling a bit like the start of your career?
Not at all, because I had already acquired some hockey experience before my injuries, which remain with me. But it is true that it is similar in something. Mainly because I have to convince the whole hockey community again that I’m okay, that I’m healthy and that I can play hockey.
Was it and is it laborious persuasion?
I’ve never heard of anyone who wouldn’t give me that chance. It helped me. On the contrary, I felt support, which is always important.
Do you know anyone who would have as long a break from hockey as you?
I don’t know anyone like that. Only maybe Mario Lemieux. He was one of my role models, and during my hiatus I read that he ended his career due to his health issue and then came back after about three years and nine months.
Speaking of Mario Lemieux, the NHL receives an annual hockey award. You would be an ideal candidate for her, wouldn’t you?
(Laughs) So I leave it to those who judge. But it’s probably possible.
“I was a little worried if I could do it.”
How did you feel in the first match after your return? Were you proud of yourself?
First, there was a bit of concern about whether I could do it and whether the work was worth it. During the game itself, I didn’t think much about what you said. But on the upside, when I think about it, I’m glad I did. Many people around me have already said what I was trying to do and patted their foreheads. So I’m glad I proved that anything is possible, even if it seems unrealistic.
Have the doubts around you been an additional motivation?
They weren’t. I did it mainly for me. But it is clear that it is not pleasant when you have to listen to such a speech. That’s why I’m glad I managed to come back, even if it was something completely illogical for a lot of people.
How did you get such negative words out of your head when you had a long way to go?
I’m not going to lie, there were stages where I wondered if it was worth continuing. If that’s the right way for me. But actually, all along, I felt in my heart that it made sense. That’s exactly what I need to do.
Photo: Marketa Křížová
Didn’t they try to doubt you before the first game this year, to find out if you still have it?
I must have had such considerations. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t make much sense to think about such things. I didn’t go on the ice with the idea that everything would be fine. I wondered what would happen to it.
“A lot of people around me have already said what I was trying to do and patted their foreheads.”
In the end, you scored 18 Canadian points in 23 games for Sokolov. You can be satisfied with it.
I’m definitely happy with how it went. Although I have to say I had plenty of other chances, especially in the playoffs, the numbers could have been completely different, but that was fine. Above all, I have gradually become more confident, which I am most happy about.
They say that once you know hockey, you don’t forget it. You can confirm that, can’t you?
I think so. (smiling) During all these five years, I believed that I could still do something. It’s more about staying calm. When you want to prove something to someone, it’s more counterproductive. When you enter the game and think of nothing else, this rule applies. This is also seen in players who, after years of professional inactivity, play various exhibitions. They still have it in their hands.
Do you think hockey has evolved anywhere in the five years you haven’t played?
Definitely yes. In individual teams, the systems play out a bit differently. But as I said, I gradually tried not to worry too much about it. I took it more as a game and looked for possibilities in it.
“It just occurred to me. It’s exactly what I’m supposed to do.”
You had entered the NHL before the injuries. After the break you played for Sokolov. Wasn’t your Chance League weak?
I’m not going to lie that my priority was to play for Sparta. But after meeting the guys from Sokolov, I have to say that they are both great hockey players and good guys. In the end, I had fun there. I liked hockey.
Photo: Marketa Křížová
Ultimately, you might realize that Sparta needed to figure out how your body would react in a wrestling match.
Exactly. I have nothing to add to that.
After all, Sparta probably deserves her patience with you.
Absoutely. Thanks to her for all the help. Whether it was from the start financially or for the fact that I was able to use all the club facilities and train there. It wouldn’t be obvious everywhere.
You might like to buy a box of champagne for the club therapists, huh?
(smiles) Definitely yes. On the other hand, I consulted individual physiotherapists most of the time. They were numerous and they received rewards. But a big thank you to the team. They helped me and consulted with me.
“Everyone has their way, everyone has their obstacles.”
Was it difficult for you to train behind Sparta and see other teammates go to games?
It was hard, but I gradually got rid of it. It didn’t help me compare to the guys who are going to play the game and I can barely do a lunge. So I gradually focused on myself. Each of us has a path. Some may find it easier and others more difficult, but all of this is fleeting. Everyone has their obstacles.
Which of your teammates helped you the most during your injury?
I have many friends in Sparta. Everyone who was in Sparta expressed my support. We had a six that were very close. Me, Míra Forman, Honza Buchtele, Tomáš Pavelka, Jirka Černoch and Jirka Smejkal. Míra Forman in particular was one of those who always believed that I could come back. He never doubted, which helped me a lot and I’m grateful to him.
Miroslav Forman is such a spartan inventory that he aspires to a title. You’re probably supporting him a lot this year, aren’t you?
I support him a lot. We lived almost everything together in Sparta Acne. Even though I wasn’t playing at the moment, Míra and I often discussed everything. In addition, we played together in the youth categories. I have known him for a long time and I wish him that everything goes as he wishes.
“Míra Forman was one of those who always believed that I could come back. He never doubted.”
Back to you. You are a very thoughtful person, aren’t you?
Yes, you can say that.
I know you were struggling to find inner strength. Did you find her overcoming lingering wounds?
Frankly, at first I thought it would be a lot easier when I came back and that I would enjoy every moment on the ice just because I was coming back. But gradually I began to set high demands on myself, which I had in mind all the time. It slowed me down a bit and is something I still need to work on.
Photo: Marketa Křížová
Have you considered working with a mental coach?
It’s not a completely mental coach, but I’ve been working on this site since the beginning of my adult career. I saw there something where I had gaps and where I could improve.
Where do you think the roots of self-doubt lie?
This is for a long analysis. I refuse to blame anyone. But it is offered in childhood. One way or another, I was always brought up to place high demands on myself. Basically, I took it from my parents and gradually grew it on my own. I blamed myself for not making claims or meeting them. But I realize it could have had a lot of other kids too, and that in no way slowed them down.
“It holds me back that I don’t want to disappoint others.”
Didn’t you think that if you weren’t chefs you would do even more on the ice?
You know I thought about it many times. But on the other hand… It wouldn’t be me anymore, I was brought up like that and I’m happy with it, so it’s not worth thinking about it like that.
Is it more about wanting to prove something to those around you or to yourself?
I really want to prove myself, but what’s holding me back is that I don’t want to disappoint others. That’s how I’ve always done it, and it often distracted me from performing.
How do you perceive hockey after an injury? Like a passion, or rather a way to secure yourself?
When I get to the locker room and on the ice, it’s definitely a passion. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to hide the fact that hockey is something that feeds me. For the past few years, even now, after coming back to hockey, I’ll give more than he gives back, so I’d like to get something out of it.
And weren’t you afraid of not getting the right contract after the injury?
Such thoughts continued, but I blessed them fairly quickly. I said to myself that I would not take care of them, that I would take care of what was current and that I would return to hockey at all. On the other hand, někdo If someone had told me in advance that I would have lost four and a quarter years, I might have assessed it differently. But it always looked like I would be back soon, so I stuck with hockey.
Did you have a backdoor in case your comeback didn’t work out?
There were some possibilities, but nothing specific. I applied to college but didn’t go as my return was approaching. I understood that I had a limited time for hockey and that I could do anything else for the rest of my life. And I thought if I didn’t try now, I’d never come back. I submitted everything to that.
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