Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper made his ice hockey debut for Guildford Phoenix and ended up a hero
For Petr Cech it was a dream start to a somewhat surreal change of careers. In his first game for Guildford Phoenix ice hockey team the Premier League and Champions League-winning goalkeeper was the hero of the evening, saving the crucial shot in the shootout to secure a victory that, in its own way, ranks highly in the 37-year-olds long list of achievements.
For sure Cech looked delighted as he was named Phoenixs man of the match amid their celebrations at Guildford Spectrum leisure centre, a place where pensioners can swim for less than a fiver and families of four can go tenpin bowling for 23 exactly. To call it modest compared to some of the venues Cech has competed in would be an understatement.
But then this was always going to be an unusual occasion and one that arrived in something of a blur given it was only last Wednesday that Cechs signing for Phoenix was announced. Yet, to some extent, Cechs move from top-level football to fourth-tier ice hockey is not that surprising. The former Czech Republic international has been a fan of the sport since childhood and, having signed for Chelsea in 2004, he decided to make Guildford Flames, who play in the Elite Ice Hockey League British hockeys top tier his team. A little over 15 years later, and following retirement from a career in football that saw him keep 202 Premier League clean sheets and win every major trophy going, it was time to swap grass for ice.
Phoenix are the Flames development team and Cech is actually their third-choice goaltender. Given the fuss surrounding his arrival, however, it was no surprise to see him make an immediate debut on Sunday, with Swindon Wildcats 2 the visitors to this part of Surrey. A game between two teams that had won their opening two games of the National Ice Hockey League season ended 2-2 after regulation time, leading to overtime and, after no further goals, the shootout. Cech saved two of the first four penalties he faced and then, in sudden death, came up against a fifth. The Wildcats Mason Lipsey dribbled towards him and could only watch as Cech saved his shot low down to his left. Cue the celebrations.