The Invincible M.A.E. (harleymae) wrote,
The Invincible M.A.E.

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Petr and his chinchilla

I've fucking snapped. With the help of some comments in the hockey community.

Sykora didn't give his chinchilla, P.J., much of a chance after it ran away from his West Orange home. But P.J. was apparently part homing pigeon.

"All the guys have dogs. I wanted to have a dog, but I have to leave it alone at times. So I got a chinchilla," Sykora explained.

"Last year I forgot to close the door to his cage one day during the summer. He went out of the cage and was gone for five days. I thought I had lost him."

But Sykora never lost hope. He kept the door to P.J.'s cage open, as well as his own door while he was at home.

"One day he actually came back to his cage. He was pretty beat up and skinny, but I was excited because I really missed him," Sykora said. "I thought he would be dead.

"He's a great pet. They sleep during the day and they're up at night. I let him wander around the room. It's nice to have someone to play with when you get home. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and he's right beside me sleeping."

Just another boy and his chinchilla.

Asked about his best friend's pet, teammate Patrik Elias responded: "The rat? It's like, what, a ferret? It has nice soft fur, but it's a strange pet. He's a strange guy, too."

I am so fucking in love right now. He's so strange and dorky! *weeps*

"I'm going to Disneyland" is what pro athletes in North America often crow after they capture a championship. Yet for National Hockey League players, Anaheim has historically resembled a graveyard more than a Magic Kingdom.

Winger Petr Sykora is hoping to reverse that trend after joining a bulked-up Mighty Ducks roster this season. But the 25-year-old Plzen (Pilsen) native knows it won't be easy. Sykora was the kingpin of a July 6 blockbuster trade with the New Jersey Devils that also moved Mike Commodore, J.F. Damphousse and Igor Pohanka to Anaheim, while Oleg Tverdovsky, Jeff Friesen and Maxim Balmochnykh went the other way.

Now Sykora is expected to spark a club that hasn't made the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference since 1999. It's a tall order.

Rookie Ducks coach Mike Babcock is impressed with the eight-year NHL veteran but doesn't want to build up grandiose expectations.

"I really like Petr," Babcock said. "He loves the game. He comes in with a smile on his face every day and he's very professional. But pressure is an amazing thing. If the puck doesn't go in the net for you, suddenly you start carrying the weight of the world. He said to me one day, 'It feels like 27 tons are on my back.' And I said: 'Just get out there and be who you are.'"

Sykora hopes to reaffirm his identity as one of the top stickhandlers and shooters in the game. He's excited about teaming up with aces such as Paul Kariya and Adam Oates on the power play.

Before Oates suffered a broken hand against Vancouver Sept. 24, the 40-year-old free agent acquisition was already developing good chemistry with Sykora, who sometimes plays the point with the man advantage.

"Oatsie is one of the best passers in this league and probably ever to play the game," Sykora said. "The way he makes those plays is unbelievable. So it's just a question of getting used to him and getting open and putting some pucks in the net."

Because it's part of NHL culture for people to ask, "What have you done for me lately?," one poor season may have cost Sykora his spot with the Devils. He fell from a career-high 81 points in 2000-01 to just 48 last year but he wasn't the only one.

"I think New Jersey is trying to put together a brand-new team," Sykora said. "They let go of Jason Arnott and Randy McKay too. Maybe I didn't fit in anymore."

Fellow Czech Patrik Elias is another teammate Sykora had to leave behind. The two have been compared constantly since debuting together with the Devils in 1995-96. But Sykora doesn't see his move to Anaheim as an opportunity to prove he's better than his old friend.

"I really miss Patty. He's one of the closest friends I have. We spent a lot of time together. I watch Patty closely, and we talk to each other almost every day about how things are going. You never know, maybe one day we will be back together again."

But for now, it's time to start over, on and off the ice.

Sykora is wearing number 39 instead of 17 this season. He insists he chose 39 after consulting with friends in the Czech Republic, rather than as a tribute to the now-retired Dominik Hasek.

Living close to the beach is a nice change from the bleak industrial landscapes of New Jersey. With the help of his pal from Plzen, defenseman Pavel Trnka, Sykora is settling in and checking out the hottest Italian and Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles.

Sykora is single, but he doesn't come home to an empty place. He brought his pet chinchilla P.J. along from New Jersey.

On a more somber note, the young scoring star narrowly avoided the ravages of the flooding in the Czech Republic this summer.

"I had a feeling it was going to come, so I jumped on a plane and came over here," Sykora said.

"I was very lucky that my family and everybody I know lives on a hill in my city. But I know there were a lot of problems, especially in Prague. So I wish them all good luck, and I hope it's going to get better for them."

He has mixed emotions about his experience as a member of the Czech Olympic squad that went to Salt Lake City in February.

"I was disappointed because I thought we had a great team. It was just that we couldn't score that goal against Russia in the quarterfinals. I really thought we played better hockey. Still, the overall experience was unbelievable. Just to see all the athletes and everybody watching all the events was great."

If NHL players participate in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Sykora is determined to be there for a second shot at gold. And if Anaheim should bow out of the playoff race this season, he says he'll go to the World Hockey Championships in Finland.

"I'm happy that I've had lots of chances from the national team and I'm going to give them back anything I have. So any time they call me and I'm healthy, I'm going to come."

In the long term, his positive attitude and fighting spirit may prove to be just what's needed to end the culture of losing that has plagued the Ducks for years. He's showed his character with nine points in 13 career Stanley Cup final games. He's sacrificed his body, celebrating his first Cup from a hospital bed after suffering a Derian Hatcher hit in 2000.

Now Sykora hopes he'll get to script some more Disney endings.

"We need to make sure that we're in a position to make the playoffs. We don't want to be out of it by Christmas. We have to try to stay up there with the big dogs like Colorado and Dallas. If we keep doing what we're doing, we can get there."

"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and he's right beside me sleeping."

Sykora is single, but he doesn't come home to an empty place. He brought his pet chinchilla P.J. along from New Jersey.

What the fuck is he doing with poor Petr, Junior?

And, this is what a chinchilla looks like.

Added from jetpants' LJ:

Petr Sykora was moving slowly after practice yesterday. He wasn't hurt, just tired.

Sykora had a hard time getting to South Mountain Arena in West Orange on time, because he didn't get his usual wakeup call.

Sykora's pet chinchilla, P.J., normally wakes him up around 6 or 7. P.J. sleeps on his own pillow in Sykora's bed, but apparently wanted to sleep in yesterday.

Sykora has had P.J. for a year and calls him "my boy."

When asked by backup goalie Chris Terreri what possessed him to buy "a rodent," Sykora said, "It was one of those days. I was alone."

P.J. and Petr have been through a lot. Twice, Sykora has thought his friend was dead.

"He chewed through the TV wire once and all four legs were in the air and he wasn't moving," he said. "I had to take him to the vet, who gave him a shot. He didn't move for four days. But then he got better. P.J. learned his lesson and now just runs in circles around the TV."

Then there was the time P.J. ran away. For five days, Sykora thought he was gone forever, but then P.J. found his way home.

"He was skinny and beat up," Sykora said. "But he came back."

P.J. eats chinchilla food, but also likes carrots, chocolate and Fruit Loops, according to Sykora who claims his pet is "built."

"When I fight him, he's hard to beat," Sykora said.
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