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Bonk on a Bike
by Shannon Lee Mannion

Bonk on  a BikeI case the parking lot in front of an upscale west end restaurant. No sight of the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy that was being trucked in for the photo op with Radek Bonk. But then why would they be an hour early. Radek and I were booked for an interview over lunch with photo to follow. Ah, thereís a brand-new Mercedes Kompressor, a sporty-casual car for a young, man-about-town hockey player if ever there were one. I pull in beside, hoping that some of the gloss and glamour rubs off on my little runabout.

Radek Bonkís table, please ďOh, Mr. Bonkís not here,Ē the maitre dí replies. ďThen whose Kompressor?Ē I blurt. Not important. Itís not Bonkís and itís he who Iíve come to see. I choose the seat with my back to the door. Having never seen Radek Bonk and knowing nothing about him except that he plays hockey and has a Harley, I figure heíll find me.

A tall sweatshirted, baseball-capped person in scuffed sneaks approaches and holds out his hand. Itís Bonk, looking like a university student out for a quick bite. Iím not sure what I expected of a prize-athlete. He epitomizes laid-back comfort and with a firm squeeze of my hand seats himself and orders a ginger ale. His gaze is direct and open. I say how glad I am that heís agreed to meet me. ďNo problem,Ē he smiles. Heís gracious and accommodating. Again, I donít know what I expected. Maybe some arrogant hockey jock who wouldnít offer the time of day if asked? My mistake . . . again. No rich playboy stance, no pretence.

I mention that a local Harley Davidson dealer is providing a Fat Boy to pose with and discover that heís pressed for time and canít wait an hour until the bike arrives. Yikes! Quick, make some phone calls to the bike shop; everything has to be moved up. I rise to find a phone booth.

In a second, Radek proffers his cellular phone. And now comes one of those funny inter- generational moments where the tech-minded young help the Luddite-old. ďI donít know how to use a cell phone,Ē I cringe, waiting for a guffaw, but instead, with a shrug and a quizzical look, but he didnít roll his eyes, too polite for that, he dials the number.

Our food comes and I think to myself how I could really get into doing a Lunch with Jan Wong kind of column. Lunch with Shan. Kind of has a ring. We chat about his love of cars and the ones he keeps in the Czech Republic along with his Harley, the Mitsubishi 3000 he bought in 1995 and a BMW M5 he bought two years ago. ď I like fast cars,Ē he admits and says that one of the pleasures of spending his off-season months back home is being able to drive through the forests and mountains, savouring the spectacular Czech scenery. He says of the BMW SUV he uses as his daily driver here, ďThe X5 is a four-by-four but quicker and lighter than most SUVs. And itís a very comfortable ride,Ē adding, ďI like Hummers, too.Ē

The Fat Boy pulls up on a small flat bed equipped with a neat lift and we leave the restaurant. Radek Bonk sits on the bike and little boy glee suffuses his face.

Q: Have you always driven motorcycles?
A: Not really. I always wanted one but could not afford to get one until now. I bought the 1998 Fat Boy and customized it. Only the motor is stock. I added chrome, put on a bigger gas tank, different seat, different fenders and different handle bars. Thereís a bigger wheel on the back, too.

Q: You have several high-end vehicles now so where do you go automotively from here?
A: There will always be a car I want. Thereís always a Ferrari.

Q: Why donít you just go out and buy one? Too showy?
A: No, not too showy. You wouldnít be able to drive it in the winter here and the roads back home are not very good for that kind of driving. I like Ferraris and Porsches, too, but I dunno.

Q: It sounds to me that although you are in a position to spoil yourself, you donít.
A: You just donít buy something because you can. You want to be able to use it. Thereís no point having a Ferrari and only driving it three times a year.

Q: If you were going to indulge yourself, what would you do?
A: These days, you have to be smart with your money. A hockey career is over when youíre 35 or 40 and then what? You cannot spend all your money now and when you finish. . . .

Q: Yes, what then?
A: I would like to return to the Czech Republic and coach kids now to play hockey but you never know.

Q: Last question, how do you deal with being recognized in public, essentially, being famous?
A: Iím not famous. People know me because I play hockey but itís a team sport and everyoneís important.

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