Fans in Prague raised Ukrainian flags and chanted in support of that nation at a fundraising game organized by hockey legend Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday, with gate proceeds benefiting Ukrainian families seeking asylum in the Czech Republic after Russia’s invasion.
Sparta HC defeated Jagr’s Knights of Kladno 4-1 at the O2 Arena in front of 14,512 fans, which was considered a sellout.
Originally, the regular-season game was scheduled for Kladno’s home arena, which seats around 5,200 fans. But Jagr announced on Facebook last Thursday that he wanted to move the home game to benefit Ukrainian families.
The game was officially moved to the O2 Arena on Friday.
“I am very happy to confirm that everything was successful, even in such a short time. Now our only wish is to sell out the O2 arena. Buy a ticket and help those Ukrainian families in the Czech Republic!” Jagr wrote on Facebook.
Jagr contacted the NHL when it was decided the game would be moved to O2 Arena. In response, the NHL donated $68,000 — in honor of Jagr’s No. 68 jersey number — to help “improve the lives of Ukrainians displaced from their homes” through the fundraising effort.
In a video, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “Jaromir, for three decades we have marveled at your talent, dedication and passion for our game. Tonight, we salute your generous heart and commitment to improve the lives of displaced from their homes. The National Hockey League is proud to support you and the great Czech fans in this effort.”
The event had its share of stirring visuals. The Ukrainian anthem was played before the game, with the Sparta and Kladno players lined up together, rather than on their own blue lines.
Fans used transparent blue and yellow placards to turn the lower bowl of the arena into a 360-degree Ukrainian flag.
💙💛 #WeStandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/aPavl8pDSh
— HC Sparta Praha (@HCSpartaPraha) March 8, 2022
Messages from Ukrainian refugees were played during the game to a quieted crowd.
The words “Rivalita…