The Belfast Giants made a shock addition to their netminding department on Wednesday [15 November], signing former Arsenal and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech on an emergency loan deal from the Oxford City Stars.
The 41-year-old arrives in the Elite League after playing parts of four seasons with the Guildford Phoenix, Chelmsford Chieftains, and Oxford City Stars – lower league clubs from England’s hockey pyramid.
“We’re very appreciative of the support of both the Oxford City Stars and Petr himself,” said Giants head coach Adam Keefe. “Petr is a highly decorated athlete, who knows what it takes to perform at the highest level, so his support during this loan period will be invaluable.
Cech, who is widely regarded as one of the best football goalkeepers of his generation, won four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the UEFA Champions League, and the UEFA Europa League.
Added Shane Moore, the director of hockey operations for the Stars: “Steve Thornton contacted me and asked if they could borrow Petr to help them through some goaltending issues. As a club, we see it as a great opportunity for Petr, and we are pleased that his capabilities are recognised and trusted at the Elite League level.
“I believe we have the best trio for goaltending in NIHL1, so I am more than confident that giving Petr this opportunity will not affect our NIHL campaign.”
The Brno-born shot-stopper made more than a century of international appearances for Czechia, playing at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and back-to-back UEFA European Championships between 2008 and 2012.
Analysis: Petr Cech joining the Belfast Giants on an emergency loan is smart for everyone involved
The Belfast Giants started the season with three netminders – Tyler Beskorowany, Jackson Whistle, and Andrew Dickson.
After they were struck by the injury bug, Adam Keefe moved quickly to source an emergency backup and landed on the most iconic option available – former Premier League superstar Petr Cech.
Cech featured for an All-Star version of the Giants in a recent charity event versus Dnipro Kherson, helping to raise over £65,000 for Ukrainian Hockey Dream – the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine’s official charity.
Clearly, this transaction raises an important question – is the 41-year-old worthy of a spot in the Elite League? In other words, can he play to the level required to help Belfast in their pursuit of another triple crown?
If he was recruited as a starter or the junior member of a tandem, absolutely not – there is a reason he played in the Premier League, not the NHL.
But Cech hasn’t touched down in Belfast with either of those roles in mind – instead, he will serve as an emergency backup, a role he is absolutely suitable for.
Albeit in the face of weaker opposition, Cech boasts a career .910 save percentage. While there is no doubt that number will drop if he hits the ice in the Elite League, he can stop pucks and continues to look the part of a professional athlete.
Can Cech compete with Champions Hockey League All-Star Beskorowany? No.
Is Cech of a comparable level to Dickson, who holds a career .761 save percentage in the Elite League? Absolutely.
In a world where genuine feel-good stories are hard to come by, this is a moment everyone should simply sit back and enjoy.
Cech will take this opportunity incredibly seriously – he remains a world-class competitor who authored a historic career for a reason.
The Giants will benefit from his professionalism and the fact they have an extra netminder to stop pucks.
The Elite League has added a legitimate superstar, albeit from another sport, to its ranks.
Everyone wins with this one.