Jan Rutta spent no time in America prior to Blackhawks training camp but he loves what he’s seen in Chicago thus far, from a walk along Michigan Avenue to seeing his favorite band, the Offspring, at a recent concert to taking in the Bears season opener last Sunday.
And he’s a big American football fan now — “Oh yeah,” he said. “Big time.”
Be it the city or training camp, they’ve both had the same impact on the Czech defenseman.
“The city’s quite big, that’s a difference,” said Rutta, who hails from Pisek, a small town about 90 minutes from Prague. “Here [at camp], it’s also bigger, everything is bigger and faster. But everyone’s been kind to me, so that helps a lot.”
Rutta’s transition to Chicago has been a relatively smooth one. It helps that he has a few fellow Czechs here at camp, including Michal Kempny and David Kampf. Kempny, who paired with Rutta at Sunday’s scrimmage and was a national teammate of his in the past, has been especially helpful. Language isn’t a problem, either, as Rutta already has a strong command of English. He credits that in part to former Chomutov Pirati teammate and close friend Brett Skinner, a Canadian defenseman who also spent some time with the Rockford IceHogs in 2013-14.
The on-ice adjustment hasn’t been so bad, either. As with anyone coming over from Europe, playing on the smaller ice surface is always a question. But Rutta said that’s not the big concern.
“I’d say it’s more about the players because they’re faster. You just have to make plays faster,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Rutta’s had a very steady presence in his first few days here.
“Sometimes you talk about defenseman a guy quietly goes about his business and you say he didn’t jump out at you. But I find those defensemen who are very predictable, safe and reliable, they’re getting the job done,” Quenneville said. “I like his size, the way he thinks the game, the way he moves. Getting acclimated to the smaller ice is a work in progress but he’ll only get better as we go along. It’s been a good camp for him.”
Where Rutta fits in on the Blackhawks roster — or if, right now — remains to be seen.
He’s enjoying his time in America, off and on the ice. Obviously he’d like to be part of the Blackhawks starting roster but whether he’s here or in Rockford, he’s ready to adjust his game on this side of the pond.
“I came here to give it a shot, to try my best and I’m not going to quit after a camp either way it goes,” Rutta said. “Hopefully I’ll be with the Blackhawks. I’ll just do my best.”