Sunday night, reports first surfaced that the Washington Capitals would sign Richard Panik on the first day of free agency to a four-year deal worth $2.75 million a season.
General manager Brian MacLellan was surely excited about the deal, but the people most happy about the signing may be Michal Kempny and his girlfriend Nicola.
Shortly after the news surfaced, Nicola posted to her Instagram Story with the caption “When your besties husband signs (with) the same team #thankyouuniverse #bestnews @nikolapanik.”
Michal and Nicola have been friendly with Richard and his wife Nikola since 2016 when Kempny and Panik both played in the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization.
The Slovakian forward also helped Kempny learn the English language when he first came over from the Czech Republic. Panik also helped translate for Kempny during interviews with Chicago media.
Mark Lazerus detailed their friendship more in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kempny has worked as hard on his English as he has on his game, determined to become proficient in both. Besides his tutor, he has an English-speaking girlfriend, who’s also from the Czech Republic. He can get some interpreting help from Jan Rutta and Richard Panik in a pinch. And he has been binge-watching Showtime’s “Homeland,” in English, with English subtitles.
After practices, he casually converses with teammates and broadcasters, deftly switching between English and Czech. He’s even trying to avoid slipping back into Czech when going out to dinners with Rutta and Panik.
Kempny is also featured in several photos beside Panik on the newest Capitals’ Instagram page too.
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In his first press conference as a Capital with reporters, Panik spoke about his relationship with Kempny.
“Real good friends. He’s from Czech Republic, so we’re really close, our countries together,” Panik said. “And even my wife and Kempny’s girlfriend – they’re really close. So of course, that’s something positive [that] he’s there. So, that’s good for me and for my wife.”
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