From Europe, Lukas Kaspar wanted to play ice hockey during his time studying abroad at the University of Memphis. He could. And once the fluent-in-Italian Czech player came from Great Britain to Memphis, he immediately became the starting goaltender of the University of Memphis Ice Hockey team. That is, until the team withdrew from the league.
Kaspar, a second-year student of business computing sits in his room and tells the story of his journey to Memphis. Born and raised in Prague, Czech Republic, where he started playing ice hockey in elementary school, he moved to Bradford, Great Britain, after high school, and started playing for the Bradford University Sabers in 2015. Even though the Sabers lost most of their games, Kaspar was the strong and fast keeper of a weak defense.
“As a goaltender you need good reactions and sometimes you need to predict the future,” he says.
When he moved to his future in Memphis after only one year in Bradford, the Sabers team lost “a huge part of itself,” Mitch Ford, his former head coach, lamented.
Like in Bradford, Kaspar quickly became an emotional leader in Memphis. With the UofM ice hockey team, he competed in the non-professional Ice House League helping the Tigers to the first playoff round. Despite an above-average 84.8 save percentage during the season, Kaspar couldn’t carry his team to the next round.
“No one on our team hates losing more than Lukas,” Michael McAteer said.
That is why Kaspar was annoyed at some problems the team faced this season, especially the lack of practice –because players had varying course schedules. Ultimately, he thinks the team did not train enough, sometimes using games as practices.
In addition to not having enough practice, the determined goaltender says, the squad was too small. Even though the 15 players were talented and in a good physical shape, the University of Memphis team often lost energy at the end and lost games in the last third, the strong-willed Czech says.
Kaspar does not play ice hockey this semester because the UofM club cannot pay this season’s fees, calculated between $700 and $1000 per player – to pay the league, the referees and ice time at the rink in Olive Branch, Mississippi. For next season, which starts in fall, Kaspar says a bit frustrated, the team needs more players and sponsors to lower the costs for each athlete or it will have to sit out another season.
In the meantime, the ambitious goaltender trains and tests his limits. Five times a week, he goes to the gym to prepare himself for his next challenge, trying out for the semiprofessional Mississippi River Kings, who support their players financially. It’s the Czech’s chance to play on a higher level in the United States.