Editor’s Note: What follows is an open and honest review of the 2012 Ales Hrebesky Memorial box lacrosse tournament. This is the fifth installment of LaxAllStars.com’s tournament review series. The process is simple: the reviewer has a maximum of 10 points to distribute over 8 categories, making the highest possible score 10/10.
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I flew over to Prague with the Salt Shakerz for the 2012 Ales Hrebesky Memorial, and to be completely honest, I had little to no idea of what to expect. I had heard about the tournament for years from the likes of Andy Wasik (Megamen), CJ Greene (Salt Shakerz founder), Mark Powers (Salt Shakerz) and a host of others, and I had only heard good things, but I’m a “see for myself” kind of guy, so I simply had to make the trip to Europe and check it out in person.
I hopped on a direct flight to Prague from JFK with about 10 other Shakerz, and 8 hours later we were in the Czech Republic. The flight was easy, and getting into Prague took all of 20 minutes. We were picked up at the airport by tournament provided drivers, and we hit the road for Radotin, a small village of 7,000 residents, where the tourney is held. 20-30 minutes later we arrived at our hotel, and I have to say I was shocked at how easily we got there. It was a good sign for the rest of the tourney.
The hotel we stayed at was interesting to say the least. It was an old army barrack that had been converted to a hotel/long-term residence. The elevators had no safety doors, wi-fi was slow, and the rooms were starkly furnished. The showers and bathrooms were weirdly throw together, and everything was very ad-hoc. Of course it only cost $26 a night to stay there, so WHO CARES?!?!?!? There were other hotel options which were much nicer, but I love having a choice between cheap and awesome or just SUPER cheap. We went super cheap and it was still awesome. Accommodations get a big +1 for diversity and affordability.
After a long trip, all you want is something to drink and some good eats. And the Ales Hrebesky definitely delivers in that regard. From the chicken schnitzel to the giant sausages, to the potato dumplings, the food is legit, and incredibly affordable. The Dumplings were $3. The schnitzel meals were about $6. Beers cost $2. The Pre-Game Meal part of the equestion gets a HUGE +1.
Now before I get to the lacrosse part of things, I want to talk about what’s going on outside of the lax sphere. One of the biggest castles EVER is only 20 minutes away from Radotin. And then the world famous Prague Castle is in, you guessed it, Prague. So that’s two things. There is a great steakhouse in Radotin. Prague is only 20 minutes away by cab, and there is a TON to do there.
The Radotin clubhouse has a pub, with a TV that shows the games live, and after the games at night, fans are often treated to dance performances, fireworks and more. The Off-Field Activities get a +2 ranking. You can fill every minute of your day with awesome things to do off the field. The trip was well worth it for this reason alone and I barely even scratched the surface.
Okay, now that I’ve covered some of the off-field stuff, it’s time to get to the lacrosse!
I played 6 games of box lacrosse in 4 days and every team did the same thing. If you make the All-Star game, you play a 7th game. By the end of the week, most people can hardly walk because they’ve played so much box lax. I got in a ton of run, played hard, and the games were VERY hard fought and serious. For our game against the host side, LCC Radotin, there were probably 2000 people in the stands watching. It was an unreal experience. Add on to the fact that games are played each day from 930am until 930pm and HALF the day is lacrosse. Prescription To Lax gets an obvious +1.
Now a lot of lax is good, but it’s only great when the talent level is high. I knew that certain teams (the US and Canadian teams, LCC Radotin, etc) would be good, but I had no idea how good the rest of the teams would be… and the answer is VERY. The days of US and Canadian teams going over and dominating with ease are OVER. The European teams play hard, they play together and the individual talent level is extremely high, especially amongst their best players.
The coolest thing to see is just how young many of the best European players are. Many of the best players were under 20 years old, and I was incredibly impressed by how well they responded to the physical play of older players. Some of the big names at the tourney were Andrew Wasik (NALL, Pace), Jamie Plunkett (NALL, Czech 2nd div hockey player), Dominik Pesek (Hill Academy, LCC Radotin), Peter Poupe (LCC Radotin), Luke Parker (CLAX), Scotty Komer (CLAX), Brandon Dube (Endicott), Eric Force (Shakerz), George Castle (Johns Hopkins), Justin Otto (NALL), James Synowiez (NALL), Sean Gibson (Ireland)… the list goes on and on.
Lots of box skill, toughness and talent all over the place. I probably left out at least 20 other “notable” names who were in attendance… the Talent Variety gets a definite +1.
And from the biggest names to the newest box players (me), everyone was happy. There was more lacrosse than most people could stomach. I probably watched 40 games of box this past week and I didn’t even catch every single game. The people in the stands are into it and once people recovered mentally from a tough loss, everyone was all smiles. The guys who wanted to go out and party at night could do so. People who wanted to just “talk lax” had ample opportunity.
One of the Green Gaels was named Offensive MVP, or something like that, and in his quick speech, he said, “I’m 41 and I’ve been playing lacrosse since I was 3. This is the best tournament I’ve ever been to.” Team Satisfaction couldn’t get anything less than a +1. This place is like the Lacrosse Field Of Dreams.
With all this box lacrosse going on, one would think that certain groups could be left out. Maybe the kids would get shorted, or the women wouldn’t get to show off their stuff. But that simply wasn’t the case at all. The women played a demo game and held a clinic for youth players on the girls’ side. There was also a clinic for the boys at the event, and then the kids got to play a scrimmage game in front of all the fans. People cheered loudly and heartily. Something For The Kids? You Betcha. + 1 in an awesome way!
I ended up giving away 2 heads with Marc Mesh/East Coast Mesh in them, two shafts, my gloves, jersey, socks, 2 shooting shirts, sweatpants, 3 t-shirts, 200 GTG shooters, 100s of stickers and I restrung 6 different kids sticks. And I was FAR from the only person spreading the love. Many of the players gave away their gear at the end to kids, and I loved seeing the game grow like that right in front of my eyes. A good stick can cost near $300 in Europe. To get one for free is a huge gift, and the kids faces lit up like crazy when they got one. UNREAL experience right there.
So now we get to the end and talk about the overall event execution. Event Execution gets a +2, just let me get that out of the way right now. The organizers knew when EVERY single player arrived, and they picked us all up at the airport.
I saw Ondrej Mika in our hotel at 2am one night, just checking in to make sure everything was going well. Announcements were made in Czech and English. The staff at the event were all extremely helpful. The fans and community in Radotin were extremely welcoming and friendly. There was NOTHING that could have been improved upon.
The sun was out in force and yet the stands were covered with tents to provide shade. Each team got their own locker room area in the clubhouse. There was food, drink and gear all available right at the clubhouse. Event staff were easily identifiable and helpful in every way. I could only say “please” and “thank you” in Czech, and yet people appreciated even that small effort. The event was run so smoothly, it felt like they did it every single week. It was the 19th year for the Ales Hrebesky Memorial, so these guys are obviously practiced, but I was blown away by the perfection of it all.
Overall Score: 10/10
I didn’t ever think I would give a tournament a perfect score. I feel like there is always something that can be improved upon, or that there is something missing. But the Ales Hrebesky has proved me wrong in every way. The tourney is professional, fun and exposed me to a large lacrosse community that I really didn’t know that well before. I’m now fully addicted to playing box lacrosse, as long as my shoulders heal up, and I had the best time playing lacrosse that I’ve ever experienced.
If this box lacrosse tournament isn’t on your LIFE bucket list, you may need to take another look at your priorities. Seriously, it’s a life changer.