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Neuvirth: Blank Czech

Neuvirth, practicing in a Brent Johnson mask. (By Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

As of Monday, the helmet in Michal Neuvirth's KCI stall was white. Pure, unadulterated white. Which is why one extremely clever Caps PR staffer was referring to him as the Blank Czech.

I asked Neuvirth what his game-day helmet would look like; "Actually, to be honest, I forgot," the young goalie said. "I order helmet in training camp but I still didn't get it. Should be here any day....That was like five months ago. I don't even know. I think it was Hershey logo, Capitals logo....."

As you can see, he apparently wore Brent Johnson's Led Zeppelin-accented mask during development camp. I hear Zeppelin's huge in Prague.

Neuvirth stories are all the rage this AM--see The Post and The Times--detailing how the kid has played for like 473 teams in the past two weeks, and how his Czech family members have crisscrossed the country trying to keep up with him, and so on.

My personal favorite Neuvirth story comes from an interview he gave to the Plymouth Whalers' Web site a few years ago. In addition to saying that goalies are "crazy and lazy" and that the person he'd most like to meet is "some girl from movies, I don't care who," he had this to say about being drafted by the Caps:

I was so excited to see Vancouver with my parents. It was a good time. I was little nervous before draft. I was waiting for hot dog and my agent come and tell me, 'You drafted,' so I threw away my hot dog and went to meet Washington.

A few more Neuvirth facts:

* Until a few months ago, he had no Social Security number, and thus was unable to get an American cell phone. Finally, with the help of the Caps organization, he got his social security number. "Now," he said, "I feel like how nice it is to have a cell phone."

* His first year in Plymouth, he went to English lessons every day for three or four months, in a crash-course effort to become conversant. It worked; he's already extremely fluent.

"I didn't speak any English the first time I got here, nothing," he said. "I had English in school but I didn't learn it."

"His English? I never heard him talk English, I don't know," said locker neighbor and fellow Czech Tomas Fleischmann. "I seriously haven't heard. He's a smart guy, I think it's pretty good."

So I asked Fleischmann how Neuvirth's Czech is.

"I never heard him talk Czech either," Fleischmann said. "He doesn't talk too much."

Anyhow, by his second year in the States, Neuvirth felt pretty comfortable, thanks also to downloading American movies with Czech subtitles.

* He already has the perspective of an NHL vet.

"I was kind of surprised, AHL seems to me slow," he said of his weekend stint in Hershey. "When I show up from East Coast I was like, 'Wow, it is big difference between East Coast and AHL,' and [Sunday] I went out on the ice and everything seemed slow to me. I was kind of surprised."

* Most people mispronounce his name. It's "NOY-virt," as Katie Carrera reported today.

"They miss the hard t," Neuvirth told me. "New-worth, Noy-virth, kind of some weird stuff."

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 11, 2009; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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My favorite Neuvirth story is from his first day ever of training camp, at Ashburn. He basically just followed Olaf Kolzig around like a lost puppy all day while Olie did the usual media rounds.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | February 11, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I LOVE MICHAL! even more than Simeon and I haven't even seen him play yet in a Caps jersey!

Posted by: rachel216 | February 11, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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