Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mrázek cleared for WJC, on preliminary roster

The Czech Republic hasn't fared well in recent World Junior Championships, but this year they will have one benefit that they did not have the past two seasons, that being the presence of goaltender Petr Mrázek.

Petr Mrázek will backstop the Czechs at this year's
WJC in Alberta. Photo:
In 2009, Mrázek and defenceman Adam Polášek left the Czech Republic and their Vítkovice club to join junior teams in Canada. Vítkovice protested, claiming that the players were not properly transferred and they still retained their playing rights. The club used this power to block the pair from playing for the Czech national junior team at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championships.

Polášek is now 20 years old, but Mrázek is 19 and still has another year of tournament eligibility. This time around, the Czech Ice Hockey Association was determined to have him on the team, and negotiated a financial settlement which freed him to play.

"This is an extremely helpful step in the interest of representing the Czech Republic, for which I want to thank both the management of HC Vítkovice Steel and personally (club president) František Černík," said ČSLH President Tomáš Král, upon announcing the news. "An extremely high level of competition awaits us in Canada, and we need a goalkeeper of the quality of Petr Mrázek."

Although goaltending has not been the team's only area of concern the past two years, they failed to qualify for the quarter-finals both times. Having the starting goaltender of the Ottawa 67's and draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings on its roster will give the Czech team a much better chance at advancing.

Five others will battle for the remaining two goaltending roster spots. None of them have WJC experience, but Matěj Machovský played very well for the Czech team at last year's U18 World Champonship in Germany.

Defenceman Bohumil Jank and forwards Jakub CulekMartin Frk, Petr Holík and Petr Straka are the only returning players from last year's squad. All five are expected to not only make the team, but be leaders. Frk, who, barely aged 17, recorded 6 points in six games at last year's tournament in Buffalo, will again be the player who gets the most attention from scouts.

Additionally, defenceman David Musil and right winger Dmitrij Jaškin were both locks to be on last year's team, but both missed due to injury. Both were taken in the second round of last year's NHL Entry Draft, by Edmonton and St. Louis, respectively.

The European-based players will assemble in Rokycany on December 16 and then rendezvous with the North American-based players in Alberta for a short training camp beginning on the 18th. They play a pair of pre-tournament exhibition games before opening their Group B schedule against Denmark on December 27. Also competing in their group is Canada, the USA and Finland. The top three teams advance to the quarter-finals, with the top team receiving a bye to the semis.

Here is the preliminary roster:


Patrik Bartošák
(Red Deer, WHL), Libor Kašík (Zlín/Olomouc), Tomáš Král (Oulu, Finland), Matěj Machovský (Brampton, OHL), Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL), Roman Will (Moncton, QMJHL).


Tomáš Bartejs (Chomutov), Marek Hrbas (Kamloops, WHL), Bohumil Jank (Poprad, KHL), Daniel Krejčí (Slavia Praha), Vojtěch Mozík (Ml. Boleslav), David Musil (Vancouver, WHL), Richard Nedomlel (Swift Current, WHL), Filip Pavlík (Třinec/Ústí), Jiří Říha (Liberec/Benátky), Daniel Sobotka (Sparta Praha/Beroun), Petr Zámorský (Zlín).


Jakub Culek (Rimouski, QMJHL), Tomáš Filippi (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), Tomáš Fořt (Zlín), Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL), Tomáš Hertl (Slavia Praha), Petr Holík (Zlín), Tomáš Hyka (Gatineau, QMJHL), Dmitrij Jaškin (Slavia Praha), Jan Káňa (Brno), Denis Kindl (Montréal, QMJHL), Tomáš Nosek (Pardubice), Tomáš Rousek (Č. Budějovice), Petr Plaček (Harvard Univ., ECAC), Daniel Přibyl, Tomáš Rubeš (both Sparta Praha), Lukáš Sedlák (Chicoutimi, QMJHL), Jiří Sekáč (Poprad, KHL), David Stach (Lukko Rauma, Finland), Petr Straka (Rimouski, QMJHL), Michal Švihálek (Č. Budějovice), Dominik Uher (Spokane, WHL), Michal Vachovec (K. Vary), Jaroslav Vlach (Liberec/Benátky).

Coaches: Miroslav Přerost, Jiří Kučera, Jiří Fischer.

Pre-tournament exhibition games:

Tue, Dec 20: Czech Republic-Latvia (Okotoks)
Thu, Dec 22: Czech Republic-Russia (Lethbridge)

Group B games (at Edmonton):

Tue, Dec 27: Czech Republic-Denmark (6pm MT, 02:00 CET)
Wed, Dec 28: Canada-Czech Republic (6pm MT, 02:00 CET)
Fri, Dec 30: USA-Czech Republic (1:30pm MT, 21:30 CET)
Sat, Dec 31: Czech Republic-Finland (2pm MT, 22:00 CET)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

APK meeting: No Slovak teams next year, clubs request full rosters for December tournaments

At Thursday's meeting of the Association of Professional Clubs (APK), the board that governs the Czech Extraliga had a couple of important issues to discuss. One was over a club's right to retain players from the national team, as some clubs are in a dispute with the national team about conflicting tournaments in December. The other was about who will play in the Extraliga next year, as two Slovak clubs have recently requested entry. The only thing that has been decided for certain is that there will be no change next season; there will be no expansion and no Slovak teams in 2012-13.

Plzeň 1929 (blue) and Slovan Bratislava (white) at the European
Trophy in August. They won't face each other on the 2012-13
Czech Extraliga schedule. Photo: Milan Podpera,
"We need more time to evaluate whether it makes sense to expand the league," said Karlovy Vary general manager Miroslav Vaňek. Not only were Slovak clubs from Bratislava and Košice seeking entry for next season, but also Czech First League clubs in Chomutov and Ústí nad Labem. The feeling among existing teams seemed to be that this is an issue worth considering, but there were too many issues that have to be ironed out to make it go smoothly, and there simply wasn't enough time to make it happen in time for next season.

"If we decide that this will have a financial benefit for us, and bring in larger crowds, well then let's do it. But we had to decide quickly and we didn't have enough time for it. In the long term, I think that the globalisation of the league will be difficult to avoid."

With so many clubs wanting to join the Extraliga, some are concerned with the number of teams that would end up in the league. "We keep hearing that we need to improve the quality and possibly reduce the number of teams in the Extraliga," said Pardubice general manger Zbyněk Kusý. "Now to accommodate these teams we would have to expand to 16, 18 or 20 teams. I don't think that's the direction we want to go in."

Kusý also said that there was some discussion about the concern of his and other clubs who will be participating in tournaments in December to be able to utilise their full rosters. Pardubice, Plzeň and České Budějovice will all be playing in the Red Bulls Salute, the playoff round to determine the 2011 European Trophy, from December 16 to 18. The national team plays the Channel One Cup that same weekend in Chomutov and Moscow, and they want to bring with them some of the top players from these clubs. As well, Vítkovice plays in the Spengler Cup after Christmas, and therefore has re-scheduled a regular season game for that weekend. Another meeting for next Wednesday, involving all concerned parties, has been scheduled.

"An official standard is needed that will somehow be respected by all parties," he said. "Everything is evolving and the contract will need to be continually upgraded with respect to other associations and leagues."

Kusy and the representatives of other participating teams are taking the European Trophy seriously, and are concerned that they will be stripped of their best players without being able to replace them, while clubs from other countries will apparently be coming at full strength. The national team, meanwhile, has a large field of players to choose from, for a tournament that is little more than an opportunity to audition for roster spots for the World Championships in the spring. Among the players that are likely to be selected are Pardubice captain Petr Koukal and Budějovice starting goaltender Jakub Kovář.

Some have suggested that the European Trophy, which this season involved 24 clubs from six European leagues who each played eight-game pre-season schedules against each other, could eventually evolve into a pan-European league that will be the highest level of hockey on the continent, potentially rivaling the KHL and NHL for top talent. Therefore, Kusý believes it's important for the Czech teams to perform well, and for  national governing bodies not to be dismissive of the tournament.

"In my opinion, this new European tournament could evolve into something very important and how well Czech teams do could affect our participation in future European competitions." he said. "If I have the right information, all teams (from other countries) are going at full strength. Everyone told me it is a prestigious tournament for them, so they're going in full force."

At the meeting, the league also discussed the possibility of bringing in a salary cap in order to control costs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slovak teams in Czech Extraliga?

In 1993, following the administrative breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovak Hockey Extraliga followed suit, ending over 60 years of Czech- and Slovak-based hockey clubs playing together in the same league. For the past 19 years, clubs in the two neighbouring states have not played together in the same league, but that may change for the 2012-13 season.

Igor Liba captained Košice to two Czechoslovak titles in the
1980s. Photo:
News agency ČTK is reporting that two Slovak clubs, HC Slovan Bratislava and HC Košice, are seeking to leave the Slovak Extraliga and play in the Czech Extraliga next season. Director of the Czech Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs (APK LH) Stanislav Šulc confirmed that negotiations are taking place. "We were visited from Slovakia," he said. "At the meeting we verbally tabled our proposal and then they sent us theirs in writing."

According to Slovan general manager Maroš Krajči, there is a greater financial upside to playing in the Czech league over Slovakia, which would result from higher attendance and more sponsors. "The market would be twice as large, which is attractive to us. The financial situation is bad for Slovak sports and we need to attract sponsors for something more. Playing in the Czech Republic with clubs from a world-championship country is attractive."

Slovan Bratislava and Košice are Slovakia's two most financially successful teams, which play in its largest and most modern arenas in the two largest cities. They co-hosted last year's IIHF World Championships together. If any teams would seem suitable to jump to a supposedly higher league, it would be them. It is no secret that Slovan has been seeking another league to play in. It was speculated that they wanted to join the Kontinental League next season, but that doesn't appear likely at this point. The Czech Extraliga would seem to be a logical alternative.

The Šťastný brothers with Slovan.
Slovan Bratislava won the Czechoslovak national championship in 1978-79, led by the Šťastný brothers, Marián, Peter and Anton. They have also won 10 Slovak titles, three during  the short-lived World War II-era First Republic and seven more since 1993. Košice won Czechoslovak titles in 1985-86 and 1987-88, the latter team included Peter Bondra, and have won five Slovak titles since 1993.

"Czech clubs are extremely interesting for us," Krajči continued. "We played together in a federal league for years, which was very successful for both sides."

The APK has called for a league-wide meeting of current Extraliga clubs to discuss the situation. One of the topics that's sure to be discussed is whether the Czech Extraliga would expand to 16 teams to allow for the entrance of the two Slovak clubs, or if some of the existing members would have to be relegated.

Friday, November 18, 2011

National team and clubs dispute over players for December tournaments

It's not often that European hockey clubs and national teams dispute over the availability of the players. In contrast with North America, where the NHL is king, wearing the national colours in Europe has always taken priority and, normally, domestic leagues shut down for international tournaments. However, on the third weekend in December, there are international and club tournaments scheduled to operate at the same time, and Otakar Duben of is reporting that some of the Czech clubs involved have made it clear that they intend to take their full rosters.

Alois Hadamczik might not have all the players he wants in
Chomutov and Moscow. Photo: Kateřina Šulová,
From December 15 to 18, the Channel One Cup, which is the second leg of the 2011-12 Euro Hockey Tour, will be held in Moscow. It features the national teams of Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. That same weekend, the Red Bulls Salute, the playoff round to determine the winner of the 2011 European Trophy, will be held in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. Among the quarter-finalists that have advanced from the pre-season tournament are one team each from Austria and Finland, three from Sweden, and three Czech clubs: České Budějovice, Pardubice, and Plzeň.

At the recently completed Karjala Cup in Finland, the Czech roster included goaltender Jakub Kovář and forward Aleš Kotalík of České Budějovice and forward Petr Koukal of Pardubice. It appears that they might not be there the next time.

"I have a responsibility to the owners, partners and fans (of the Pardubice club)," said general manager Zbyněk Kusy. "I cannot let an elite player miss a top club event and replace him with somebody from the First League." Meanwhile, Budějovice's general manger, Josef Zajíc said, "If Kovář is going to be used as a back-up as he was at the Karjala, it will be better for him to play the tournament in Austria."

National team coach Alois Hadamczik, for one, is aghast that some clubs are threatening to withhold players from the national team for what he considers to be an inferior tournament. "If someone would rather play in a third-rate tournament, that's pretty sad. To argue that the European Trophy is more beneficial to the player than games with Russia, Sweden and Finland? Those are far more important confrontations."

Kusy told newspaper Sport that the issue has already been settled, claiming "(National team general manager) Slavomír Lener announced to the APK that the European Trophy finalists will have all their players and they will not be selected for the Channel One Cup."

Lener, however, claims that he did not make such a promise, and that ultimately Hadamczik is free to choose the team he wishes. As for who he will choose, Hadamczik says, "I have a moral obligation to select who I think are the best players available."

Making the dispute more interesting to Czech hockey fans might be the fact that one of the opening games of the Channel One Cup will be played in Chomutov. The North Bohemian city's brand new arena will play host to the Czech Republic-Sweden game on December 15.

The Finnish and Swedish rosters might also be affected by this conflict, as they both have players on their national teams that are in the Red Bulls Salute. From Finland's Karjala Cup roster, defenceman Ossi Väänänen plays for Jokerit, forward Topi Jaakola plays for Luleå, and forward Mika Pyörälä plays for Frölunda. From Sweden, goaltender Johan Gustafsson and forwards Simon Hjalmarsson and Johan Harju play for Luleå, defenceman Klas Dahlbeck and forward Andreas Jämti play for Linköpings, and defenceman Christian Bäckman plays for Frölunda. The fact that two Finns play for Swedish clubs involved could complicate things further.

It remains to be seen how Czech television handles the concurrent tournaments. ČT4 normally shows most Euro Hockey Tour games, and all games involving the Czech Republic. However, they also televised several European Trophy games in August and September, and it would seem odd to ignore the playoff portion of the tournament with three Czech teams involved.

Here is the schedule for the Channel One Cup (all times are Central European):

Thursday, December 15:
17:00 Russia - Finland (Moscow)
18:20 Czech Republic - Sweden (Chomutov)

Saturday, December 17:
11:00 Russia - Sweden (Moscow)
15:00 Czech Republic - Finland (Moscow)

Sunday, December 18:
11:00 Russia - Czech Republic (Moscow)
15:00 Sweden - Finland (Moscow)

And here is the schedule for the Red Bulls Salute:

Friday, December 16:
17:15 Jokerit Helsinki - HC České Budějovice (quarterfinal, Vienna)
17:15 Frölunda Indians - Linköpings HC (quarterfinal, Salzburg)
20:30 HC Plzeň 1929 - Luleå HF (quarterfinal, Vienna)
20:30 HC Pardubice - EC Red Bull Salzburg (quarterfinal, Salzburg)

Saturday, December 17:
17:15 Winners of quarterfinals in Vienna (semifinal, Vienna)
17:15 Winners of quarterfinals in Salzburg (semifinal, Salzburg)
20:30 Losers of quarterfinals in Vienna (qualification, Vienna)
20:30 Losers of quarterfinals in Salzburg (qualification, Salzburg)

Sunday, December 18:
14:00 Losers of qualification games (7th/8th place, Salzburg)
17:15 Winners of qualification games (5th/6th place, Salzburg)
17:15 Losers of semifinal games (3rd/4th place, Vienna)
20:30 Winners of semifinal games (championship game, Vienna)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Late collapse costs Czechs at Karjala

The Czech Republic came oh-so-close to winning the Karjala Cup, the first leg of the 2011-12 Euro Hockey Tour. A win over Russia in their final game would have put them into the tournament lead in points, and they were ahead 1-0 with six minutes to play. However, a power-play goal by Alexander Radulov tied the game with 5:56 remaining and then Yevgeni Kuznetsov scored the winner with only 10 seconds on the clock.

"It's a shame. I'm very sorry, because we played so well," said defenceman Jakub Nakládal, who was in the penalty box for the tying goal. That situation came about by a bad deflection off the glass, but I should have reacted better. I tried to hold the zone, but unfortunately I had was left with no choice but to hold him."

Jakub Kovář did all he could in the Czech goal. Photo:
After they tied the game, the Russians got another chance with the man advantage and put on tremendous pressure. Jakub Kovář managed to hold the fort for the full two minutes, but the pressure continued, leading to Kuznetsov's winner.

"As time went on they put on more and more pressure," said the besieged goalie. "On the winning goal there was a big scramble in front of my net and I had a bit of miscommunication with the defenceman. It's too bad because we thought we'd at least take it to overtime."

Later in the day, Sweden beat the host Finns 4-3, meaning that the 3 points they squandered against Russia would have given the Czechs first place in the tournament. As it is, Russia finished first with 8 points, followed by Finland with 4, and the Czechs and Swedes both with 3. The next leg of the tournament will be in Russia in December.

Besides the disappointment of losing, the late collapse was also unfortunate for team captain Petr Nedvěd, who was representing his country of birth for the first time in 15 years. Nedvěd got his team off to a good start on Thursday in Sweden, scoring twice to pace his team to a 5-2 victory and then, in Sunday's game in Helsinki, had the lone goal against Russia before the late collapse.

"It's a terrible shame," said Nedvěd afterward. "We played hard for 60 minutes. You absolutely couldn't ask for more from the boys." But he went on to say, "I am certainly glad that I was able to play for the national team after such a long time. We had a great bunch of guys, just dominated by positive emotions. Of course, I knew that hockey at this level is faster. But I think we came out and played two games at one hundred percent. It just did not go very well on Saturday against Finland."

The players now return to their respective clubs, as European domestic leagues resume play in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nedvěd captains Czechs at Karjala Cup

Petr Polák and Derek O'Brien

Fifteen years after he last played international hockey, Petr Nedvěd will captain the Czech Republic at the Karjala Cup in Helsinki, Finland and Örnsköldsvik, Sweden from November 10 to 13.

Petr Nedvěd at the 1994 Winter Olympics. Photo: Claus
Anderson, Canadian Olympic Committee, CP .
Nedvěd, who will turn 40 on December 9, will be the oldest player in the tournament, but that is not the only reason to be surprised by his presence on the Czech national team. The other reason is because although Nedvěd is Czech-born, he also has a Canadian passport and he played for Team Canada at the 1994 Winter Olympics. According to IIHF rules, this prevented him from wearing the jersey of the Czech national team. Until now.

Although he did play for the Czech Republic at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, that tournament is organised by the NHL and NHLPA, and not subject to IIHF eligibility restrictions.

The IIHF rules make an allowance for a player to change his country of affiliation if he abstains from international hockey for a period of at least four years, while playing for a club in a country where he holds citizenship during that time. Nedvěd returned from the NHL to play in the Czech Extraliga in 2007, first with Sparta Praha and then with Bílí Tygři Liberec, so there is no other obstacle preventing him from representing the Czech Republic again.

“Coach Alois Hadamczik surprised me," Nedvěd said to“I did not even know that this possibility existed. I thought I would never be able to play for the Czechs again because of my appearance on Team Canada and because of my age."

But as Hadamczik told, Nedvěd was not the only veteran that he considered for the team. "The young guys simply are not as good as the older players. I was also thinking about Viktor Ujčík (39), Radek Bonk (35) and Jan Peterek (40). In the end, only Nedvěd appears on the final roster."

Nedvěd, who considered retirement in the off-season, is the current leader in points (26), goals (11) and assists (15) in the Czech Extraliga.

The Czech team will wear patches on their jerseys remembering the September tragedy involving the Yaroslavl KHL team and Czech national team players Karel Rachůnek, Jan Marek and Josef Vašíček. Rachůnek’s brother Ivan will play in the Karjala Cup.

The Karjala Cup is the first leg of the 2011-12 Euro Hockey Tour. Most of the games will be televised in the Czech Republic on ČT4 Sport and will be available online at

Here is the roster for the Czech team that will compete at the Karjala Cup (November 10 - 13, 2011, Helsinki, Finland and Örnsköldsvik, Sweden):


Jakub Štěpánek
(St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Kovář (HC České Budějovice).


Miroslav Blaťák, Jakub Nakládal
 (both Ufa, KHL), Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Martin Ševc (Färjestad, Sweden), Tomáš Mojžíš (Turku, Finland), Marek Trončinský (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Lukáš Zíb (HC Oceláři Třinec).


Petr Nedvěd
(Bílí Tygři Liberec), Jakub Petružálek, Petr Vrána (Khabarovsk, KHL), Jiří Novotný (Astana, KHL), Jakub Klepiš, Marek Kvapil (both Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Petr Průcha (St. Petersburg, KHL), Zbyněk Irgl (Minsk, KHL), Petr Vampola (Timra, Sweden), Aleš Kotalík (HC České Budějovice),  Petr Hubáček (HC Kometa Brno), Petr Koukal (HC Pardubice), Martin Adamský, Jakub Orsava (both HC Oceláři Třinec).

General Manager: Slavomír Lener
Head Coach: Alois Hadamczik
Assistant Coach: Josef Paleček
Team Manager: Jan Černý
Video Coach: Jan Procházka 
Physicians: Dr. Zdeněk Ziegelbauer, Dr. Radomír Holibka 
Physiotherapists: Pavel Kolář, Michal Truc 
Treasurer and Masseur: Zdeněk Šmíd
Masseur: Petr Ondráček
Media Consultant: Zdeněk Zikmund

2011 Karjala Cup schedule (All Times CET):

Thursday, November 10:
18:30 Finland - Russia (Helsinki)
19:00 Sweden - Czech Republic (Örnsköldsvik, ČT4 Sport)

Saturday, November 12:
12:00 Sweden - Russia (Helsinki, ČT4 Sport)
16:00 Finland - Czech Republic (Helsinki, ČT4 Sport)

Sunday, November 13:
12:00 Czech Republic - Russia (Helsinki, ČT4 Sport)
16:00 Finland - Sweden (Helsinki, ČT4 Sport)