Player profile: Roman Nezhyba

(Editor’s note: This issue we’re talking with Roman Nezhyba, who finished second in the 2015 Stiga Shootout in southern California. The tournament returns on Jan. 23, 2016.)

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(Roman Nezhyba, right, takes on Eric Davis at the 2014 Stiga U.S. Open near Chicago.)

Name: Roman Nezhyba

Hometown: Laguna Hills, California

Birthplace: Czech Republic

Age: 39

Occupation:  Real Estate

Q. When did you first start playing table hockey?

A. When I was about 10 years old, I got a table hockey game for Christmas. It was a local version, made in Brno, Czech Republic. It was the only one available on the market at the time. I started playing it regularly with my best friend Jura, and soon we found ourselves recreating the entire NHL season (21 teams at the time). We scheduled every single game for every team, and that was so many games that even five years later we were still not finished and it still remains unfinished today. Maybe that’s because we played each game with three five-minute periods! I think every team still needs to play like 10 games in the regular season and then do the play-offs. You know, so maybe when Jura and I meet as seniors some day, we just may get it done…

Q. How and when did you rediscover table hockey?

A. I was 19, living in Prague, and I met some local players there and they invited me to play in some kind of a league tournament. That’s how I first got to play on Stiga. I did alright, finished in the middle, but other activities like soccer and tennis and other things took my attention away from the game, and when I moved out of Prague shortly thereafter, it was pretty much over until about 12 years later in late 2008 in Laguna Hills. I browsed online out of curiosity to see whether anybody played the game in SoCal and found Kevin Rafferty’s website and came to his school to play. We started playing regularly together, and then I went to my first big tournament in Las Vegas in January 2009.

Q. What table hockey games do you currently play or own?

A. I played Coleco and Stiga at first, but now it’s Stiga only.

Q. What do you like about the Stiga hockey game?

A. My first non-Stiga, the locally-made Czech game, was really nice. I liked the 3-D players. However, it had a little slot pattern flaw though, and my opponent Jura took advantage of it when we played :-). Also, playing behind the net was not possible. When I first saw a Stiga game, I loved it! Passing the puck behind the net and the whole design felt like playing real hockey!

Q. Who’s your favorite opponent?

A. Any opponent I can beat. I don’t like the ones that beat me.

Q. Do you have any special practice routines in the weeks before a tournament or league date?

A. Not really. Kevin and I play games on regular basis. Before tournaments, we try to play a bit more, as much as possible, other than that no special practice.

Q. What’s the one tip you would give beginning and intermediate Stiga players that would help them improve their game in the short term?

A. Be patient and enjoy playing the game.

Q. Your skill level increased over the years. How did you make the leap?

A. Since I only play against one sparring partner, it results in both of us knowing each others’ moves and patterns extremely well. This forces you to come up with something new from time to time to surprise him and stay ahead. So more and more moves are put on the “menu” and executed in our games. More variety means more weapons and a better chance to win. I think our styles have evolved a lot over the years and strategies we use now are surely very different from what we did in the past.

Q. Any other topics you’d like to touch on?

A. It’s a shame that the Stiga players live so far apart from each other here in North America and get to meet only a few times per year. I envy the European players who get to play in weekly tournaments against each other.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s very difficult to find other competitive players and keep them playing, especially here in the SoCal area. There are so many distractions and other things to do.

I enjoy every opportunity to play and hopefully for many years to come.

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