On a roster made up of Americans and Canadians, Jakub Suran is unique. He is the first athlete from the Czech Republic to play on the USM Men’s hockey team.
Suran is from a city called Liberec, a place that is geographically smaller than Portland but home to over 100,000 people. It is about an hour from Prague, the capital city, and just a short trip away from Germany and Poland. Liberec is a tourist town surrounded by mountains, where locals and visitors alike enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Another favorite pastime of theirs: playing ice hockey.
Suran, a defenseman, began playing hockey soon after he learned to walk. When he was eighteen, he came to the United States for the first time to play for a juniors team in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was there that he perfected his English. “I studied English for a long time in school,” he said, “but I only got good at it when I was using it every day.” In addition to helping Suran become fluent in English, playing juniors in the U.S. allowed him to travel to several states along the West Coast. It wasn’t until after he had already committed to play at USM that he came to the East Coast for the first time.
“The first time I came to Maine was when I was moving in. That was the first time I had seen the school. Coach Harding gave me a tour of the rink and the campus,” Suran said. He chose the University of Southern Maine for its academics and its hockey program; however, there were several other schools he considered, including the University of New England, Curry College, and St. Michael’s. Suran admits that choosing where to play was a tough decision that he spent a long time making: “I weighed the pros and cons of each school, the academics, and the hockey program.”
Suran, a computer science major, chose to attend college in the U.S. for the opportunity to play collegiate hockey. The school structure here is much different than in the Czech Republic. There, bachelor degree programs are three years instead of four, and collegiate sports aren’t nearly as competitive as they are here in the States. In fact, in Europe, school and athletics are completely separate. While European universities do have sports teams, the level of competition is very low and student athletes aren’t given support balancing academics and athletics like they are in the U.S. At universities in the U.S., professors are generally understanding and lenient when it comes to making accommodations for student athletes who have to occasionally miss class for games. This is something Suran says you wouldn’t see in the Czech Republic, as universities there are solely for education.
In Suran’s debut season with the Huskies, he had a goal and four assists in eighteen games (fourth in points for defensemen) and was second on the team in blocked shots. He is also a member of the USM men’s tennis team.
“I’ll never forget the experience of attending school in the United States and getting to play college hockey. It’s definitely something I am extremely grateful for,” Suran said.