The opportunity, he confesses, was his for the taking.
And there was no way Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich was turning down the opportunity.
Not this one.
Not his first.
Rittich jumped at the chance to represent the Czech Republic at the 2018 IIHF World Championship — his national first sweater-donning stint of his career.
“I had an offer that if I wanted to go, I could,” said Rittich, who has two wins, one shutout, a 1.98 GAA and a .900 save percentage through his first three appearances.
“If I would’ve left this offer, I would’ve been very stupid. It’s my first offer. I had to go. It’s my first experience with the national team. It’s huge for me.
“It’s my first time having the national team jersey on my body. It’s a pretty good experience and a really nice feeling for me. It’s the first time for me. For every single player, having the national jersey on your body is the biggest thing.”
It’s been a long journey to his first national team experience for the six-foot-three stopper from Jihlava.
Never drafted, Rittich spent his entire career in his home country before inking a one-year pact with the Flames, two years ago next month to be precise, to venture across to North America.
High risk for the then 23-year-old.
High reward, it turns out. Thanks to some quick development.
On and off the ice.
Mikael Backlund remembers.
The once-shy Czech goalie, who spoke but a few words of English, has blossomed at the rink.
And away from it.
“I remember,” said Backlund, who is captaining Sweden and is now friend turned foe for Rittich at the World Championship.
“He was struggling with his English, but I was trying to chirp him as much as I could anyways. He was a European. I was trying to make him feel somewhat comfortable.
“I knew one Czech word. I called him that all the time.”
It’s not to be repeated.
But safe to say, Rittich can now fire back in multiple languages after flourishing in his time in North America.
His first go-round featured a formidable effort; he went 15-11-1 with a 2.27 GAA, .924 save percentage and five shutouts with Stockton of the American Hockey League in 2016-17.
Full article on Calgary Flames website.