Through her first seven PHF games, Lenka Serdar only has one assist thus far, but she’s created scoring opportunities aplenty and been a constant in the lineup for the Connecticut Whale this season. She joined The Pod this off-season after previously competing professionally in Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Czechia following a four-year career at Cornell University.
“I didn’t know (Head Coach) Colton (Orr) but knew some of the players on the team. It’s a small world where everybody knows someone on each team. I was just excited to have the opportunity to play here,” Serdar told The Ice Garden following a game against Minnesota.
“I know last season they had a really good year. With the roster they were building for this season I knew we’d have an even stronger team, and I was excited for the opportunity; I was on board immediately.”
Justine Reyes with some sweet hands in front of the net gives the Whale the lead! pic.twitter.com/C8AJc8S6iz— PHF (@PHF) December 10, 2022
Last season Serdar was teammates with Justine Reyes playing for Linköping HC and this season the duo has been linemates for the majority of Connecticut’s games; Serdar assisted on Reyes’ first PHF goal. Another connection that was already established was with Kateřina Mrázová, who she was a teammate with on Team Czechia at the 2021 World Championships and the 2022 Olympics.
I had a bazillion questions I could have and wanted to ask Serdar, but I limited it to five(ish) for this article about her.
The Ice Garden: Why did you opt to play in the PHF this season, I’m sure you had offers elsewhere, right?
Lenka Serdar: I think during the off-season I was excited about seeing where I could play hockey. I knew I was coming back to the United States because I was returning to school here. I got really fortunate, I had some calls with Colton over the summer and they went really well. I felt like this would be the perfect home for me to pursue the next step in my career. I’m really happy, and excited, to be here.
Lenka Serdar led the way with two goals as No. 6 Cornell knocked off No. 8 Colgate 4-2! Huge 4️⃣ point weekend for the Big Red! (📸: Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletics) pic.twitter.com/QlZR2CYHsW— Cornell Big Red (@CornellSports) January 26, 2019
TIG: I’m always amazed at Ivy League athletes. How did you balance playing hockey while attending a school like Cornell?
LS: I think that even from a young age my parents instilled in me the value of an education. Yes, hockey is my passion, and I’ve always been pursuing that - but it was always drilled in me at home that it’s really important because your education is something that no one can ever take away from you. Balancing things at Cornell was certainly a challenge, but I was so fortunate to play under Coach (Doug) Derraugh and alongside some amazingly talented American and Canadian athletes. I feel like I grew a lot there, not just academically, but also as an athlete, in terms of my character. So, it was a good fit, and I miss my teammates. I run into some of them now and then and it’s always amazing when I see them. Good family.
TIG: I’ve noticed that you play a little bit of center and wing as well, do you have any preference?
LS: Honestly, wherever the team needs me, I’m happy to just help the team in whatever role I can. But, I do feel a bit more comfortable at center because I’ve played in that position more over my career. Wherever I can help the team win is fine with me.
TIG: What are some things you worked on during this off-season to prepare for your first season in the PHF?
LS: I think I would say I was trying to work on my power. I feel like I’m strong, but it was more of just working on my power. It was a very different off-season for me this summer. Usually, in the off-season I’m able to get on the ice a lot - whether I was in Boston or Europe - I always had those opportunities. This summer I spent some time with my parents in Florida, because they just moved down there, and the closest ice rink was like five or six hours away. I was in the western panhandle of Florida, so nowhere near Tampa or anything. So I wasn’t on the ice much at all and I had to focus on my off-ice - conditioning, mobility, all that stuff. It was definitely different, but I also feel like it was a nice break. Last season was very taxing on my body - a long season with international hockey, playing in Linköping. So, I played a lot of games, and (that time off the ice) was a nice reset for me heading into this season with the Whale.
TIG: You played in the 2022 Olympics, what were those moments like for you?
LS: I think it is the pinnacle of our sport. It’s hard to describe. Being in that environment, the amount of support I felt from people all over the world, my family and friends, friends in Europe - just all over. It was just incredible; to be able to represent Czechia, was honestly a lifelong dream. It was…I kind of get emotional at times because I always think about my grandma, and how proud she would be that I was there. It was an incredible opportunity.
TIG: When you’re there amongst some of the biggest and most recognizable athletes in the world, was there anyone you saw and said or thought: oh my god that’s so-and-so?
LS: I definitely saw some pretty famous athletes out there. There was one meal where I was sitting across from David Krejci - a lifelong idol of mine. Czech, Bruins, center…so that was pretty neat. I just said hi, I didn’t want to disrupt him too much.