It initially read like an April Fool's story. but it's true. Petr Čech the former Chelsea, Arsenal and Czech national team goalkeeper, is lacing up his skates and has signed for the Guildford Phoenix of the National Ice Hockey League in Britain.
The announcement was made on Twitter by the Phoenix on October 9. Čech has signed a one-year contract and could line-up in goal wearing #39 on Sunday, against the Swindon Wildcats.
Čech is not the first great soccer goalkeeper to lace on skates. Lev Yashin, who some consider the greatest goalkeeper in the history of soccer, was also a two-sport goalie. Yashin was a good enough ice hockey goaltender to be considered for a place in the Soviet Union's world championship team in the early 50s and he won the Soviet Cup with Dynamo Moscow in 1953.
In 1963, Yashin, who was nicknamed the "Black Spider," was named the European Player of the Year and he was named the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by a panel of FIFA experts.
Čech, 37, is currently the Technical And Performance Advisor at his former club Chelsea after retiring as an Arsenal player at the end of the 2019 season.
Čech joined Chelsea as a player in 2004 and played for 15 seasons, the last 4 with Arsenal. He is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of his era and during his club career he won the Premier League 4 times, the FA Cup 5 times, the League Cup 3 times and the Champions League and Europa League, once each.
In 2012, Čech was Chelsea's hero in the Champions League final in Munich against hometown Bayern. In extra time, he saved a penalty kick from Arjen Robben and then further cemented his legend in a penalty kick shoot out. He got the faintest of touches on Bastian Schweinsteiger's attempt and deflected the shot on to the post and out. With the next kick, Didier Drogba won Chelsea's first European Cup.
In 2006, Čech suffered a depressed skull fracture after colliding with Stephen Hunt in a Premier League match for Chelsea against Reading. Upon his return in January 2007 Čech wore rugby-style protective head guard and he continued to wear the covering throughout the rest of his soccer career.
Čech's final appearance as a player came in May of this year in a 4-1 loss to Chelsea in the Europa League final. He last played for the Czech Republic in 2016 after earning his 124th international cap.
He holds the record for the most clean sheets in the Premier League with 202 (Chelsea, 162, Arsenal 40) in 443 games.
The signing of Petr is massive for the Phoenix, he is a great guy who trains hard and I cannot wait to see him make his debut.
The Guildford Phoenix plays in Division 2 - South Wilkinson of the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) and were formed in 2017. There are 47 teams spread over 5 divisions with the National League the top level. Next comes north and south first and second divisions.
The Phoenix are off to a winning start to the 2019/20 season with two wins from two games - 10-4 against the Bristol Bulldogs and a 16-0 walloping of the Solent Junior Devils.
The NIHL is the second tier of British ice hockey one level below the ten-team Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL). The senior Guildford ice hockey team, the Flames, plays in the EIHL.
Home base is the Guildford Spectrum, an arena that seats 2,200.