Petr Cech clearly hates goals.
The former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper, who played 443 Premier League games for the two London superpowers, hung up his gloves last season after 20 years as a professional footballer.
But some habits are hard to kick, and Cech once against finds himself between the posts. Only this time, he’s on ice.
The 37-year-old has signed for the English National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) team Guildford Phoenix as a goaltender on a part-time basis. Cech, who made 124 appearances in goal for his native Czech Republic, still works for Chelsea as a technical and performance adviser.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to play with the Phoenix to get match experience,” said Cech, who will serve as the team’s third choice goaltender.
“I hope I can help this young team to achieve their goals for the season and try to win as many games as possible when I have the chance to play.”
Cech revealed on Twitter that he has loved the sport since he was a child and has “been playing for years.” The sport is immensely popular in the Czech Republic with the men’s and women’s national teams ranked fifth and eighth respectively, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Phoenix coach Andy Hemmings is delighted with his latest acquisition.
“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,” he said.
Hemmings and the rest of the Guildford team will hope Cech’s knack for winning trophies rubs off as the club, founded in 2017, seeks promotion from the Division 2 South league.
With Chelsea, Cech won four Premier Leagues titles, four FA Cups, the 2013 Europa League and the 2012 Champions League when he saved two penalties in a dramatic shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Cech cut an instantly recognizable figure for much of his career after sustaining a sickening blow to his head in October 2006 when he collided with Reading’s Stephen Hunt. He later underwent surgery for a depressed skull fracture and was out of action for three months. When he returned, in January 2007 against Liverpool, he sported a rugby-style scrum-cap that would become his trademark.
With a seemingly insatiable appetite for saving shots, a love for the game and a taste for extra protective head gear, all signs point to a successful transition between sports.
If he’s half as good as he was on the soccer pitch, the Phoenix are set for a dramatic rise