Lacrosse Editorial – The Aleš Hřebeský Memorial Tournament in Prague, Czech Republic

This is the 28th year of the tournament.  Twenty four teams from seventeen countries compete in this highly skilled competition.

Aleš Hřebeský Memorial 2023 – Day 2

The History:

The Aleš Hřebeský box lacrosse Memorial is held by the Lacrosse Club Custodes Sokol Radotín (LCC). It is to honor their former player who tragically died in the Autumn of 1993.  Hřebeský was born on July 1st, 1972 and was among the strongest lacrosse players. A gifted athlete, Aleš was also a hockey player, gymnast, and cycle-ball player. On November 30th, 1993 he was killed by a drunk driver while waiting for a bus.

In the early years, the tournament was the traditional opening of the Czech lacrosse season at the end of March. Teams usually played on a muddy field dried with layers of sawdust.

In 2001 thanks to a generous grant from the City of Prague, and the effort of LCC members, the arena was refurbished with an artificial surface.  The Grand Opening was a part of the Aleš Hřebeský Memorial.  The tournament also had another first, teams from abroad (USA, Germany and Japan) took part for the first time. This became the first tournament in the history of world box lacrosse with participants from more than two countries. The champion that year was LCC Radotin.  The next year, two American teams participated with a few professional players playing for Team Rebel.

In 2007 Canada joined in when the Green Gaels from Ontario took part. The young team fulfilled its role of favorite going undefeated to take the Cup.  2014 had another milestone with the Kahnawake Rapids taking part as the first full native team.  The Rapids won the tournament trophy that year.

In 2018 the 24-team playing system was introduced. Several games were played in the Černošice arena. Due to the covid-19 pandemic the tournament was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. After last year’s “restart” with 21 teams the tournament returned to the highest level of 24 teams again in 2023.

The Outdoor Box:

The tournament is held in a small town just outside of Prague, called Radotín.  During the war Hitler used this area to train his officers in marching excersises. 

Brian Witmer, now living in the Czech Republic, gave me some insight into the building itself:

The building is called a “Sokol”, which translates to Falcon (a statue of a Falcon still sits upon the building to this day). Every town in the Czech Republic has a Sokol (Czech version of a YMCA), which has a rich history of resisting first the Nazis, then the communist occupation of the Soviets.

The field itself is an outdoor field that uses an artificial turf surface.  Surrounded by stands for the fans, this intimate setting could get quite exuberant during the games, especially when the home squad is playing.

2023 Tournament and Results:

April 26th, 2023 saw twenty four teams play in all conditions.  At times it was sunny, at times it was rainy, at times it was cold, at time it was hot, the constant was world class lacrosse from early morning to early night.

The game consists of two quarters – fifteen minutes each.  Teams either played once or twice in the day. On the third day the playoffs would begin with the top eight teams vying for the championship.

In what was one of the most entertaining games of the tournament, the Nova Scotia Privateers (Canada) defeated LC Custodes (the defending champions from Radotin, Czech Republic) 11-10 to win this year’s championship.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the comraderie between teams, and players from all over the world.  The European game is catching the North American game very quickly, and the parity of play is truly a site to see from people with such different backgrounds. Just to add to that point, a few of the Israeli team members are active military, and had to take leaves to play in the tournament.  They are now back guarding the border again as we speak.  Life is very real for these men.

Aleš Hřebeský Memorial 2023 – Day 4

I’ll end with a quote from David Dennenberg, creator of the Israeli Goldstar team, winners in 2018, about the field and tournament:

“Glad this place is a happy place for people of all countries. Shows things can change and evil never wins”

Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.