Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mrázek's confidence infects Czechs

Petr Mrázek is excited to be at this year's WJC. Photo: Larry Wong,
Edmonton Journal,
Tomáš Král looks like a genius right now.

After watching the last two World Junior tournaments, where the Czech Republic got mediocre-at-best goaltending while they had a world-class goalie on the sidelines, the president of the Czech Ice Hockey Association saw that he had to intervene. And so he helped negotiate a settlement with HC Vítkovice, the club that held the playing rights to Petr Mrázek, which would release the Detroit Red Wings draft pick and make him available for the 2012 championships.

Helping to make Mrázek available might have actually denied Král's son, Tomáš Král Jr., the opportunity to play in the tournament; the younger Král is currently the third-string goalie. But obviously Král's duties as association president overrided nepotism.

"This is an extremely helpful step in the interest of representing the Czech Republic," he said back in late November at the announcement that Mrázek would be available. "An extremely high level of competition awaits us in Canada, and we need a goalkeeper of the quality of Petr Mrázek." How right he was on both counts.

For those that missed it, Mrázek was nothing short of incredible on Friday in Edmonton, stopping 52 of 54 shots in a 5-2 victory over the United States, a win that vaulted the Czechs into the quarterfinals and, incredibly, dropped the Americans into the relegation round. About the only thing more he could have done for his team was score a goal, and in the 59th minute, he almost did that too. 

"I tried it last year too, in Ottawa," he said to of his attempt. "I saw the puck heading toward the net, then it skipped and went a bit wide. But that's okay." He added: "Defeating the Americans in this game, it's an unbelievable feeling. I am very happy."

A lot of people are happy, and a lot more are surprised. The fact is, though, an upset seemed possible for a while against Canada, as well. Although they seemed overmatched in the first period, the goaltending of Mrázek held them in, particularly his penalty shot save in the dying seconds. In the second period, the Czech team was playing with more confidence, and if not for a lapse late in the period that allowed Canada to score twice and open up a three-goal lead, they could have made it a battle to the end. As Mrázek said after the Canadian game, "It's a game of inches."

As anyone who's watched the Czech team last year and this year at the World Juniors, a big difference is the confidence on the team. Although being critical of goaltending is not often done publicly by players, as it can be seen as a cop-out, the amount of confidence a team has in its own goaltending is often evident in how the team plays in front. Though goaltending was far from the team's only problem last season, they didn't seem to be confident that either Marek Mazanec or Filip Novotný would hold them in there. All of that has changed this year, and it shows. It shows in the exuberant goal celebrations, and in particularly it shows in how physical the team is playing; they're not afraid that every minor penalty will result in the puck going into their net.

"When a goalie plays like that, it becomes infectious and affects the whole team," said coach Miroslav Přerost.

Not only his play, but his enthusiasm. Mrázek has twice denied opponents on penalty shots, which were followed by fist-pumping theatrics. In the last half of the third period, when the Czechs broke a 2-2 tie with three straight goals, the celebrations around the USA goal were only part of the story; Mrázek couldn't control his excitement in front of his goal either. He didn't even try.

“He’s showman. He’s a real funny guy," defenceman Daniel Krejčí told Postmedia News. "He’s awesome. When you have him in back, you’re feeling great. You can’t lose with him."

How can this team not be confident heading into its final group game against Finland on Saturday? It's a big game, too. Although both teams will play in quarterfinal games in Calgary on Monday, the winner will get second place, which will earn them a game against Switzerland or Slovakia, rather than Russia or Sweden. "We're going right after the Finns," said defenceman David Musil. "We're going to fight for second place."

As hard as it was for Král to watch those last two tournaments, it was even more difficult for Mrázek, and now he's making the most of his opportunity. "I'm happy that I'm able to play in the World Juniors. I would like to thank the Vítkovice club and Mr. Král for allowing that to happen." 

Surely all Czech hockey fans would like to thank them as well.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Czechs confident against Americans

It’s two down and two to go for the Czech Republic in the group stage of the 2012 World Junior Championship. While they got the results they expected in the first two games, a win against Denmark and a loss to Canada, it is now the next two games that will determine what they will be playing for after the New Year.

The Czechs play the United States on Friday and Finland on Saturday. All three teams are tied at 1-1. Two of the teams will advance, while the third will go to the relegation round. The good news is, because they play the two teams they are tied with, the Czechs are in a position to control their own destiny. The bad news is, it won’t be easy. Owing to their victory against the Americans that they already have in the bank and the fact they still have a game remaining against Denmark, the Finns are probably in the best position of the three teams. The Americans, meanwhile, still have to play Canada, who have looked invincible so far.

The fact is, they will need to win at least one of their two remaining games to advance, however, the nearly endless possibilities of points distribution in the remaining games make it impossible to try to figure out exactly what they need. Head coach Miroslav Přerost wouldn’t have it any other way.
"It is good that the situation is tangled in the group," he said. “The Finns defeated the US, lost 8-1 to Canada, who beat us 5-0. Canada is through, but the other teams have equal chances. I am confident that we can advance to the quarterfinals. We just want to avoid any distractions from the games."

Focusing his attention on the next game, Přerost doesn’t expect much difference in the style of play from the game against Canada.

"The Americans have built their team the same way as the Canadians, so the playing style will not be materially different," he said. “We have enough information about them. They have fast forwards who go hard to the net, but on the other hand, are not as compact as the Canadians. We have to be aware of where they are on the ice as they have many skilled players."

Awareness is exactly the thing that cost the Czechs against Canada. They trailed 1-0 late in the second period, before Freddie Hamilton snuck behind the Czech defence, wide open, and received a breakaway pass from goalie Wedgewood, which led to the 2-0 goal.

"For 37 minutes we played well, but then we made an error and it changed the course of the game," said goalie Petr Mrázek, who stopped Hamilton before Ryan Strome scored. “It’s a game of inches. If we had managed to score a goal when down 1-0, it could have been entirely different."
Mrázek, who opened the tournament with a 12-save shutout against Denmark, was a lot busier against Canada, and his goaltending kept them in the game for almost two periods. He will make a third straight start on Friday.

The rest of the lineup with stay in tact, as well, other than the possible return of Tomáš Hyka, who was injured against Denmark and didn’t play against Canada.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Czechs win big in WJC opener

It was a game they had to win if they wanted to consider themselves realistic contenders for the quarterfinals, and the Czech Republic did so in convincing fashion. In their opening game of the 2012 World Junior Championships, they hammered Denmark 7-0.

Tomáš Hertl (left) and Petr Zamorský celebrate the Czechs'
second goal on Tuesday.
After giving the USA a good game for one period in their opener, some entertained the notion that this game was Denmark's best chance to grab some points in the group stage. The Czechs, however, came out strong, and outshot the Danes 16-2 in the opening period. They got only one goal in the opening 20, a power-play marker by Tomáš Hertl, the first of three goals for the Czechs with the man advantage on four attempts during the game.

Hertl added a second goal early in the second to make it 2-0 when his shot from the goal line went off the skate of goaltender Sebastian Feuk and in. For Feuk, who did all he could to keep his team in this game, it was his only real miscue of the night. Early in the first period, he stopped a short-handed breakaway by Petr Straka, and overall stopped 37 of 44 shots to earn Denmark's player-of-the-game award.

For the Czechs, it was Hertl who won the award. The 17-year-old, who has had a standout Extraliga rookie season with Slavia Praha, inherits the title of top draft-eligible Czech in this tournament after Martin Frk bowed out due to the lingering effects of a concussion.

"I’m very pleased to score my first two goals in the World Junior Championship, and I’m very happy that I could help my team," Hertl told after the game. "We knew we had to win and that’s what we did."

The Czech team's other 17-year-old, Radek Faksa of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, scored the the third goal on a deflection on a power play midway through the second. The team's third power-play marker was another deflection in the third period by Dmitrij Jaškin to make it 6-0, as the Danish penalty killers were unable to cope with the size of the Czech forwards. 

With three assists, Jakub Culek was the team's top scorer in the game. As expected, he was a big presence on the Czech power play. They also got two points each from Petr Zamorský, Jiří Říha and Tomáš Hyka. In goal, Petr Mrázek was never seriously tested in his 12-save shutout, but that's expected to change in the team's next game.

Canada looms on the horizon on Wednesday night. The Czechs should be pleased with their dominant performance against Denmark, but in this next game they will find out where they really stand. To put things in perspective: Finland, the team that the Czechs are figured to have to beat out if they want to advance, lost 8-1 to Canada in the tournament opener. 

"We have to really take the body, be quick and put pucks on the net," Culek told, when asked about the upcoming game. "Mainly, however, we must not be afraid. Our team looks pretty good. The crowd will play a role in Canada's favour, but it should not affect us. If we concentrate and are ready, we have a chance."

Wednesday's game begins at 6pm in Edmonton, 2am Thursday in the Czech Republic. In Canada, it can be seen on TSN and In the Czech Republic, it is on ČT4 and

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Walker and Pohl try to lead Vítkovice in Spengler

They didn't get the kind of start they were hoping for at the 2011 Spengler Cup, but fortunately for HC Vítkovice, the group stage of the tournament is very forgiving.

Nathan Walker (21) and Petr Pohl (55) have provided all of
Vítkovice's offence so far.
After losing 7-1 to Team Canada on Monday and 2-1 to HC Davos on Tuesday, Vítkovice finishes third in the Cattini Group and will now play a quarterfinal game on Thursday. Monday's game couldn't have started any worse, as the Canadians shelled goaltender Martin Falter for five goals in the first period.

The one moment for the Czech squad came midway through the third period, when Nathan Walker took a pass from Petr Pohl, fought off a Canadian defenceman and fired a shot off the post and in for the team's only goal of the game. At 17 years and 10 months, he is the youngest player to score a goal in Spengler Cup history. The Australian was chosen Vítkovice's player of the game and the Davos crowd cheered wildly both times his name was announced.

"It was a great feeling, very emotional for me," he said on the club's website about the moment he scored. "I just hope it will continue and the boys join me and mainly that things start to go better for the team."

Walker's production did continue the following day and things did go better for his team, but other than linemate Pohl, no new players registered points. Against Davos, the duo had a two-on-one and Pohl finished it to give Vítkovice a 1-0 lead early in the second period.

"First of all, Nathan won a battle for the puck in the defensive zone. The puck just went to me," explained Pohl. "Then we managed to get away two-on-one. Nathan at that time went very well to the net, which allowed me to gain time and space. Even so, I hit a defenceman, but then the puck came back on my stick and I had the opportunity. This time I successfully finished it."

Roman Málek, who stopped a penalty shot early in the game, was solid in goal. However, Rakovník's Petr Tatiček scored twice for the tournament hosts before the middle frame finished, and they held on for a 2-1 victory.

Starting Thursday, all games are sudden-death. Vítkovice's quarterfinal game starts at 15:00 Central European Time and will be against the second-place team from the Torriani Group, which will probably be the Kloten Flyers. The game can be seen in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on Nova Sport, throughout Europe on Eurosport 2, and in Canada on TSN2.

Czechs set to take on the junior hockey world

The IIHF U20 World Championship began on Monday in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with eight of ten teams in action. The Czech Republic are one of the two teams that waits until Tuesday to get underway, and then will have to play four games in five days against some stiff competition, one of the rewards they get for finishing seventh last year.

After two pre-tournament exhibition games in which they beat Latvia 7-1 and then lost 5-3 to Russia, the Czechs trimmed their roster down to the required 23. For Czech fans, the most disappointing omission is highly-touted winger Martin Frk, who never came to camp. After suffering a concussion in a QMJHL pre-season game in September, Frk returned to the Halifax Mooseheads lineup for a few games in December, but elected to go home to the Czech Republic for Christmas and rest rather than risk re-injury in the highly competitive tournament.

Without Frk, the Czechs are still in better shape than they were last year, as they do have Petr Mrázek, David Musil and Dmitrij Jaškin, who all missed last year's tournament.

Their first game is against Denmark, who opened with an 11-3 loss to the USA on Monday. It should be the Czechs' easiest game in the group stage, though coach Miroslav Přerost is taking nothing for granted.  "The first game in the tournament always brings some nervousness before the players get used to the atmosphere, the ice and the tempo of the play," he told's Václav Jáchim. "The Danes won't be easy. The Americans got 11 goals on them, but in the first period they played very well."

In a group that's tough enough, picking up the full three points against Denmark is imperative, as things get much more difficult after that. After Tuesday's game, which begins at 2am Wednesday in the Czech Republic, they then get Canada, the United States and Finland in quick succession. They will need to beat at least one more of them to avoid a third-straight trip to the relegation round.

As expected, Mrázek will start in goal against Denmark, with Libor Kašík backing him up.

For an in-depth analysis on the team, read my preview at or my contribution to Bruce Peter's preview at

Below is the Czech team's tournament roster, courtesy the Czech Ice Hockey Association, followed by the team's group-stage schedule. Included in the schedule is international television listings.

Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL), Libor Kašík (Zlín/Olomouc), Tomáš Král (Oulu, Finland).

Marek Hrbas (Kamloops, WHL), Bohumil Jank (Poprad, KHL), Daniel Krejčí (Slavia Praha), Vojtěch Mozík (Ml. Boleslav), David Musil (Vancouver, WHL), Jiří Říha (Liberec/Benátky), Petr Zámorský (Zlín).

Jakub Culek, Petr Straka (both Rimouski, QMJHL), Tomáš Filippi (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), Tomáš Hertl, Dmitrij Jaškin (both Slavia Praha), Petr Holík (Zlín), Tomáš Hyka (Gatineau, QMJHL), Tomáš Nosek (Pardubice), Daniel Přibyl (Sparta Praha), Lukáš Sedlák (Chicoutimi, QMJHL), Jiří Sekáč (Poprad, KHL), Michal Švihálek (Č. Budějovice), Dominik Uher (Spokane, WHL), Radek Faksa (Kitchener, WHL). 

Team Manager: Petr Komers
Head Coach: Miroslav Přerost
Assistant Coaches: Jiří Juřík, Jiří Fischer
Goaltending Coach: Roman Višňák
Team Doctor: Dr. Marcel Hujo
Video Coach: Jan Procházka
Physiotherapist: Radovan Sakaláš
Trainers: Leoš Mitáček, Zdeněk Šmíd


Tuesday, December 27, Denmark, 6pm (02:00 Wed), ČT4, TSN

Wednesday, December 28, Canada, 6pm (02:00 Thu), ČT4, TSN, RDS, Viasat, NTV, Eurosport

Friday, December 30, USA, 1:30pm (21:30), ČT4, TSN, RDS, NHL Network

Saturday, December 31, Finland, 2pm (22:00), ČT4, TSN, Viasat, MTV3

All games above will be streamed online, live or on-demand, within the Czech Republic at Elsewhere, the opposition's rightsholder or may provide online coverage.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vítkovice prepares for Spengler Cup

The week between Christmas and New Year's is a busy time in the hockey world, and on Monday, the oldest and most prestigious club hockey tournament in Europe, the Spengler Cup, begins in Davos, Switzerland. Though which countries are represented in the tournament changes from year to year, the Czech Republic is a constant presence at the event and this year has sent HC Vítkovice Steel to participate.

Vítkovice practicing at Vaillant Arena in Davos.
As they do during the regular season, Vítkovice will look for offense from Jíři Burger and Jan Káňa, leadership on the back end from Marek Malík, and solid goaltending from Roman Málek. Besides these players, many fans in Switzerland and television viewers around the world will get their first opportunities to see 17-year-old rookie Nathan Walker play. The Australian, who has 4 goals and 3 assists in 25 Extraliga games this season and has played the last two games on the top line with Burger, was recently ranked 6th among eligible Czech players for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. This was mostly due to the absence of veteran Viktor Ujčík, who is injured and will miss the Spengler Cup. The club's defence, which has also been bitten by the injury bug, has been reinforced by two pickups from the Swiss National League: Franco Collenberg and Gian-Andrea Randegger.

This is the third time that Vítkovice has participated in the Spengler Cup. They went previously in back-to-back years, 1980 and 1981, around the time they were the best team in Czechoslovakia. Both years, the tournament was won by Soviet club Spartak Moscow. In 1980, TJ Vítkovice, as they were then known, finished second with a 2-1-1 record. In 1981, they finished in a three-way tie for second at 2-2. Ladislav Svozil led the team with 4 goals in 1980, including a hat trick in a 6-0 shutout victory over Swedish club BK Färjestad. František Černík, the current club president, scored 2 goals that year and 3 more in 1981.

"For Vítkovice, it is primarily a great honour to participate in this tournament," said Černík on the team's website. Concerning his team's chances at this year's event, he said, "Other than a little nervousness, I have concerns about the roster we're sending to Davos. So many injuries right now. It's unfortunate they came around the time of the Spengler Cup. But in any case, I don't want to make excuses. We've strengthened the team with reinforcements, so I believe that ultimately we should be competitive in Davos."

Besides the Vítkovice team, other Czechs competing in the tournament are Pavel Brendl, Petr Sýkora and Petr Tatiček of the host Davos club, and Vojtěch Polák of the Kloten Flyers.

Just as was the format in 2011, the six competing teams are divided into two groups. The division winners advance straight to Friday's semifinals, while the second- and third-place teams play crossover quarterfinals on Thursday. This means that every team survives at least that far. The final will be played on Saturday, New Year's Eve, at 12:00 Central European Time.

Vítkovice's first game in the tournament will be against Team Canada, a perennial participant in this tournament, whose squad is composed mostly of Canadians who play in European leagues. This year's Canadian team is being coached by Marc Crawford and features Marty Turco in goal. Turco recently backstopped EC Red Bull Salzburg to the championship of the European Trophy. Monday's game will begin at 20:15 CET and can be seen on Nova Sport in the Czech Republic. Viewers in Canada can see the game on TSN 2, live at 2:15pm ET, 11:15am PT. Their second game will be against HC Davos, on Tuesday if they lose to Canada and on Wednesday if they beat them. All tournament games can be seen throughout Europe on Eurosport.

From, here is the tournament schedule (all times Central European):

Torriani Group
26.12.Kloten FlyersDinamo Riga15:00
27.12.GA WolfsburgLoser Game 115:00
28.12.Winner Game 1GA Wolfsburg15:00
Cattini Group
26.12.Team CanadaHC Vítkovice20:15
27.12.HC DavosLoser Game 220:15
28.12.Winner Game 2HC Davos20:15
29.12.2. Torriani Group3. Cattini Group15:00
29.12.2. Cattini Group 3. Torriani Group20:15
30.12.1. Group CattiniWinner QF 115:00
30.12.1. Group TorrianiWinner QF 220:15
31.12.Winner Semifinal 1Winner Semifinal 212:00

Monday, December 19, 2011

Despite mourning, games will go ahead

Martin Ručinský presenting then-President Havel with a Czech
hockey jersey after winning Olympic gold in 1998. Photo: ČTK.
The show must go on.

That's the decision that was made by the Association of Professional Clubs (APK), regarding the postponement of Extraliga games that fall within the three days of official mourning for the death of ex-President Václav Havel.

"The report of a three-day period of mourning came before the conclusion of our meeting," said APK member Ladislav Blažek. "We had a chance to decide whether we would or wouldn't, and we decided that we'll play."

A moment of silence will precede all six of Tuesday's games, plus Wednesday's game between Karlovy Vary and Vítkovice. 

Also scheduled to take place this week is a series of international youth exhibition games between the Czech Republic and Russia. Unless the Czech Ice Hockey Association chooses to adjust the schedule in observation of the national mourning period, the national U18 teams of both countries will meet in Písek on Tuesday and in Přibram on Wednesday. The two nations' U16 teams are scheduled to play Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Roudnice nad Labem, Slaný and Litoměřice.

"The Czech Ice Hockey Association will join the commemoration of President Havel. The association's leadership will decide the exact form that will take on Tuesday morning," said ČSLH spokesman Zdeněk Zikmund.

Also discussed at the APK meeting was the issue of "closing" the Extraliga, which would eliminate promotion from and relegation to the First National League. Nothing was agreed upon, other than to continue discussions at the next meeting.

"The clubs have expressed their consent to further negotiations on the closure of the Extraliga, starting with the 2012-13 season," said Blažek. "Another meeting will take place. The manner of closure, and deciding whether to play with 14 clubs or if we will expand."

Mike Danton signs in Znojmo

On Saturday, Orli Znojmo of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga announced the signing of Mike Danton. The 31-year-old native of Bramption, Ontario will spend the remainder of the season with the South Moravian club.

Danton skating for IFK Ore. Photo:
Danton, a fringe NHLer with the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues, attracted international attention in 2004 when he was arrested and later sent to prison in a murder-for-hire scheme that allegedly targeted his agent, David Frost

After being released in 2009, he attended St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he led the Huskies to the Canadian university hockey championship. Last summer, he signed with IFK Ore in Sweden's third-tier league. On September 20, he returned to the headlines when he saved the life of linemate Marcus Gustafsson, who hit his head on the ice and began convulsing after being hit. 

Znojmo head coach Martin Stloukal, a former player agent, represtented Patrik Eliáš at the same time both he and Danton played for New Jersey. “I've known Mike since my time with the Devils a few years ago,” Stloukal said on the club's website. “I am sure he will be a great addition to the team.”

A familiar face like Stloukal is helpful for a player going to an atmosphere where little English will be spoken. The coach isn't the only one he knows, though. "Fortunately Petr Kanka is here, who played with my best friend in Kitchener in the OHL, and I know that he can speak English well. So I think all comments to me should be directed through Petr," chuckled Danton.

The EBEL, which is the highest tier of hockey in Austria and the eighth-ranked league in Europe, represents the highest calibre of hockey that Danton has played since leaving the NHL. Orli Znojmo, who are currently ninth in the 11-team circuit, are the only Czech club and one of five non-Austrian clubs in the league. 

When asked how he will contribute to his new team, he answered: "I will play my game, try to create chances, backcheck, play hard, skate. If an opponent goes at our players or if he attacks our goalie, you'll probably see me in a scuffle. But I will not chase players down the ice like an idiot just because I want to fight."

Danton's entire interview with Lukáš Peroutka can be found in Czech on Orli's website.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Performances from unlikely sources help Czechs finish 2nd in Moscow

Just as they did in 2010, the Czech Republic has finished second place at the Channel One Cup in Moscow.

For a team that generally does not do well at the Euro Hockey Tour and has not won the event since 1998, there were many encouraging moments from the Czech team and, with a little bit of luck, they could have won the tournament.

It opened with a with a national team record. On Thursday night in Chomutov, Petr Průcha scored right off the opening faceoff, taking advantage of a defensive miscue and beating Victor Fasth with a quick wrist shot to the blocker side after only 5 seconds had elapsed; it was the fastest goal from the start of a game in Czech or Czechoslovakian national team history.

Unfortunately, that's all the offence that would come from the Czechs on the night, as the Swedes scored twice in the second and won 2-1.

On Saturday and Sunday in Moscow, the Czechs took five of a possible six points, convincingly beating Finland 5-1 and then edging Russia in a shootout on their home ice. They were led by some unlikely sources, both offensively and defensively.

On Saturday, Tomáš Pöpperle saw his first action in goal for the Czech national team since 2006, and he stopped all but one shot in a convincing victory. The 27-year-old netminder, who played two games for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006-07, has been one of the big reasons why Sparta Praha currently sits in second place in the Extraliga standings.

"After the first eight minutes of play, I said to myself I reached my new career high," Pöpperle said to's David Schlegel after the game. "The game went well all the way and ended with a deserved victory, which is great."

Offensively, they got two goals each from Zbyňek Irgl and Petr Vrána

On Sunday, they faced arch-rival Russia in a game that would decide second place in the tournament. They got two goals from Roman Červenka and eventually went to a shootout tied 3-3. There, it would be a battle between Irgl and Russia's Alexander Radulov, who did all the scoring. Through four rounds, each had scored twice. In the fifth, Irgl scored his third, while Radulov was finally denied by Jakub Štěpánek.

"Radulov is the best player not only at the EHT, but also in the KHL," said Štěpanek to's Roman Solovyev. The goalie and shooter face each other in the Russian circuit. "I'm happy that the third time I was able to stop his shot."

"The first penalty shot was more difficult; all three times I shot in other way. I don't remember scoring all three penalty shots in one game before," said Irgl, who had never scored for the national team before his explosion this weekend.

"Before the last game here we had only six defencemen. The guys played the way we talked about before the game," said Czech coach Alois Hadamczik.

Although he was initially against the idea of leaving players who were competing in the Red Bulls Salute this weekend, Hadamczik was pleased by the performance of many of the players who do not normally get many chances to represent the Czech Republic. "We're trying to look at more players in the EHT to give us more options for the World Championships."

The Czechs finished second in the tournament, but they could have finished first had they not surrendered two second period goals to Sweden on Thursday. The Swedes ultimately won the tournament, one point ahead of the Czechs. 

With the 2011-12 edition of the Euro Hockey Tour now at its halfway point, Russia leads with 12 points, followed by Sweden with 9, the Czech Republic with 8 and Finland with 7. The two remaining tournaments will be in Stockholm February 9 to 12 and Brno April 26 to 29. The tournament in Brno, which will be played the weekend before the start of the World Championships, will feature a roster that will much more closely resemble that of the big event.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

And then there were none: Czech teams swept out of RBS quarters

With three teams in the field of eight at the Red Bulls Salute, there was a decent chance of a Czech team winning the 2011 European Trophy, or at least qualifying for the finals. Instead, all three lost their quarterfinal match-ups and will now battle for fifth to eighth places. České Budějovice was blown out by Jokerit Helsinki, while Plzeň and Pardubice both lost close ones.

Pardubice goaltender Martin Růžička had a lot of traffic to deal
with in Salzburg. GEPA-Pictures, 
In the early game in Vienna, the South Bohemian club which plays under the corporate name Mountfield stayed close for one period. After Ben Eaves opened the scoring early for Jokerit, Jiří Šimánek tied it on a rebound after goaltender Frans Tuohimaa had stopped Pavel Kašpářik on a breakaway but was unable to freeze the puck. Less than two minutes later, however, Antti Kerälä put the Finnish club back in front to stay. Not even the goaltending of Jakub Kovář, who was kept off the Czech national team this weekend, could help his team's cause. Three goals in the first half of the second period put it away, and the game eventually finished 7-2.

In the latter two games, which ran concurrently, HC Plzeň 1929 took on Swedish club Luleå HF in Vienna and HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice played an EC Red Bull squad that was on its home ice in Salzburg.

Plzeň fell behind 1-0 in the second, then got an equalizing goal on a blast from Jan Kovář early in the third period. After killing off a late penalty, captain Martin Straka got a chance to win it on a breakaway in the dying seconds. However, the combination of chasing down the puck and trying to get his shot off in time caused him to lose his balance and the save was a relatively easy one for David Rautio. After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, the game was decided in a shootout.  Luleå's second shooter, Johan Harju, scored the only goal, one which goaltender Adam Svoboda actually re-directed into his own net. Rautio stopped all three shots he faced to vault his team into the semi-finals.

Pardubice was the Czech Republic's last chance to be represented in the tournament's final four, but they fell 2-1 to the host team. All the scoring was done in a five-minute span late in the second period. Petr Koukal scored Pardubice's lone goal, but Tyler Redenbach scored the game-winner with 1:25 to go in the middle frame. Late in the third, Martin Růžička was pulled for a sixth attacker, but the Czech visitors were unable to beat goaltender Marty Turco.

Saturday's semifinal match-ups will be Jokerit against Luleå and Salzburg against Linköpings HC, who beat fellow Swedish club Frölunda in the other quarterfinal. In placement games, Frölunda plays Pardubice in Salzburg, while Plzeň and Budějovice play each other in Vienna.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Red Bulls Salute on TV

The quarterfinals of the Red Bulls Salute, the playoff round to determine the winner of the 2011 European Trophy, will be played on Friday night and Czech fans will be able to see two of their teams on television. The two games from Vienna, Jokerit-České Budějovice and Plzeň-Luleå, will be televised live on Sport1 at 17:15 and 20:30, respectively. A third Czech team, Pardubice takes on the host Red Bull Salzburg team at 20:30; apparently, it will receive no domestic television coverage.

Sport1 will also carry both semifinal games on Saturday, and the third-place and championship games on Sunday.

Besides the Czech Republic, the Sport1 broadcasts will also be available in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. ServusTV carries games in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, while Viasat is televising the action to the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Fans in Finland can watch on MTV3. It should be noted that these other carriers will likely choose the quarterfinal games that are most appealing in their regions.

All games will be streamed live online on and Unfortunately for Pardubice fans, these webcasts will be blacked out in the Czech Republic, as well as all countries that receive the Sport1, Viasat or MTV3 telecasts, to protect the television rightsholders. Other than making the five-hour drive south to Salzburg, the best these fans can do is receive online updates and hope for a win, which would mean they could watch their team play on Saturday and Sunday.

Red Bulls Salute Schedule:

Friday, December 16:
17:15 Jokerit Helsinki - HC Mountfield České Budějovice (quarterfinal, Vienna), Sport1
17:15 Frölunda Indians - Linköpings HC (quarterfinal, Salzburg)
20:30 HC Plzeň 1929 - Luleå HF (quarterfinal, Vienna), Sport1
20:30 HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice - EC Red Bull Salzburg (quarterfinal, Salzburg)

Saturday, December 17:
17:15 Losers of quarterfinals in Salzburg (qualification, Salzburg)
17:15 Winners of quarterfinals in Vienna (semifinal, Vienna), Sport1
20:30 Winners of quarterfinals in Salzburg (semifinal, Salzburg), Sport1
20:30 Losers of quarterfinals in Vienna (qualification, Vienna)

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), Sport1
20:30 Winners of semifinal games (championship game, Vienna), Sport1

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big changes for Channel One Cup roster

On Wednesday, the Czech Ice Hockey Association released its roster for the Channel One Cup, the Russian-based tournament that makes up one quarter of the Euro Hockey Tour. To no one's surprise, it does not include any players from teams committed to the Red Bulls Salute.

Tomáš Pöpperle will play at least one
game at the Channel One Cup. Photo:
Coach Alois Hadamczik grudgingly agreed not to choose anybody from the České Budějovice, Pardubice or Plzeň clubs, all of whom are participating in the playoff round of the Euro Hockey Tour that same weekend. That means that goaltender Jakub Kovář and forwards Aleš Kotalík and Petr Koukal, all of whom wore the Czech colours at the Karjala Cup in Finland last month, have been left off.

Another significant omission is Petr Nedvěd, who captained the Karjala team and was the club's leading scorer but broke his jaw last Sunday and missed three games. Though he returned to Liberec's lineup on Tuesday and the tournament is still a week away, Hadamczik thought it best to leave him off the roster.

"While Petr returned to the league amazingly fast, from my perspective, there was a big risk," the coach explained in a press conference. "He was interested in playing, but the more I talked to him," he paused, "You never know what will happen. Just one reckless opponent and the injury can return."

In Kovář's place, Tomáš Pöpperle, who has backstopped Sparta Praha into first place in the Extraliga this year, has been chosen to form a goaltending tandem with Jakub Štěpánek. Though the latter is expected to be the starter, Hadamczik will only say that both will play, "I will not say who and what starts which game. Each goalie will play; one in two games, the other, one."

On defence, various circumstances, most related to injuries, mean that only Petr ČáslavaJakub Nakládal and Marek Trončinský return, while a few changes have been made up front as well. Tomáš Rohlinek has been chosen to captain the squad.

In addition to the Extraliga and the KHL, which are usually used to stock the team, three players have been taken from the Swiss National League "A" and one from the Finnish SM-liiga.

The Czech team plays its first game on Thursday, December 15 in Chomutov, where they host Sweden, before heading to Moscow to play Finland and Russia on the weekend. As the game in Chomutov will be the first for the Czech national team on home ice since the September 7 plane crash that wiped out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, a pre-game memorial tribute will take place to honour former Czech national team members Jan Marek, Karel Rachůnek and Josef Vašíček. A limited quantity of tickets for the game will be made available for sale on December 10.

Below is the Czech roster and tournament schedule:


Jakub Štěpánek
(St. Petersburg, KHL), Tomáš Pöpperle (HC Sparta Praha).


Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Jakub Nakládal (Ufa, KHL), Ondřej Němec (Cherepovets, KHL), Lukáš Krajíček (Minsk, KHL), Zdeněk Kutlák (Ambri-Piotta, Switzerland), Marek Trončinský (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Jakub Krejčík (HC Slavia Praha).


Tomáš Rolinek (Magnitogorsk, KHL), Roman Červenka (Omsk, KHL), Zbyněk Irgl (Minsk, KHL), Jakub Klepiš (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Lukáš Kašpar, Kamil Kreps (both Astana, KHL), Petr Průcha (St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Petružálek, Petr Vrána (both Khabarovsk, KHL), Petr Vampola (Geneva, Switzerland), Vojtěch Polák (Kloten, Switzerland), Petr Hubáček (Jyväskylä, Finland), Ivan Rachůnek (HC Sparta Praha), Michal Vondrka (HC Slavia Praha).

General Manager: Slavomír Lener
Head Coach: Alois Hadamczik
Assistant Coach: Josef Paleček
Video Coach: Jan Procházka 
Team Doctor: Dr. Zdeněk Ziegelbauer
Physiotherapist: Michal Truc
Custodian and Masseur: Zdeněk Šmíd
Masseur: Petr Ondráček
Media Consultant: Zdeněk Zikmund

2011 Channel One Cup schedule (All times CET): 

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)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WJC roster trimmed from 40 to 27

The management and coaching staff of the Czech national junior team has decided to take a smaller number of players overseas than orignally planned, and has therefore cut its roster from 40 to 27 players.

"We have limited selection, it wouldn't be very good to take a large number of players overseas, which would hurt their clubs," coach Miroslav Přerost explained to's Václav Jáchim. "That does not mean that the selected players should be over-confident. Anything can happen, and we will respond to what develops."

Přerost's words seem to indicate that this list of 27 players is only a rough draft, and that if a player who is currently on the list of reserves proves to the staff that he deserves a spot more than anyone who is currently on the preliminary roster, he might get the nod ahead of them.

The trimming of the number of players, particularly in the area of goaltenders, seems to reaffirm Petr Mrázek's position as the starter. "Mrazek is the clear starter for us, his participation was crucial," said Přerost.

Only three will be on the final roster, so it seems that Libor Kašík and Tomáš Král will get the other two positions, unless Patrik Bartošák or Matěj Machovský, who are still on the reserve list, are brought back for another look. Roman Will of the Moncton Wildcats has apparently been cut.

The remaining list of 24 will have to be reduced to 20 by the start of the tournament. That will probably mean two more defencemen and two more forwards getting cut from camp.

Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers was not originally on the list, but has apparently impressed the coaching staff enough with his rookie OHL season, in which he has recorded 27 points in 27 games, to make his way onto the list.

Tomáš Hertl is confident about making the Czech U20 team. 
Two names that remain on the list despite injuries are 18-year-old forwards Martin Frk and Tomáš Hertl. Frk suffered a concussion in a pre-season game and has yet to play in the QMJHL yet this season, but is expected to return soon. Hertl is the leading rookie scorer in the Czech Extraliga with 15 points in 23 games, but has missed the last five with a shoulder injury. He, too, appears close to returning, and expects to be on the team.

"Last week I began training, gradually getting into it. The important thing is that I did not feel the injured shoulder, so I think it's good to go," he said in a recent interview. "I've thought the whole time that I was going to be in the U20 tournament, and occasionally chatted with (Slavia teammate) Dmitrij Jaškin about it. Now that it's even closer, the topic comes up more."

Unless further changes are made, the 27 players listed below will begin a mini-camp in Lethbridge, Alberta on December 18 to determine the final tournament roster.


Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL), Libor Kašík (Zlín/Olomouc), Tomáš Král (Oulu, Finland).


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


Jakub Culek, Petr Straka (both Rimouski, QMJHL), Tomáš Filippi (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL), Tomáš Hertl, Dmitrij Jaškin (both Slavia Praha), Petr Holík (Zlín), Tomáš Hyka (Gatineau, QMJHL), Tomáš Nosek (Pardubice), Daniel Přibyl (Sparta Praha), Lukáš Sedlák (Chicoutimi, QMJHL), Jiří Sekáč (Poprad, KHL), Michal Švihálek (Č. Budějovice), Dominik Uher (Spokane, WHL), Radek Faksa (Kitchener, WHL).


Patrik Bartošák (Red Deer, WHL), Matěj Machovský (Brampton, OHL), Daniel Sobotka, Tomáš Rubeš (Sparta, Beroun), Tomáš Fořt (Zlín), Michal Vachovec (K. Vary), David Stach (Lukko Rauma, Finland), Jan Káňa (Brno), Tomáš Rousek (Č. Budějovice), Denis Kindl (Montréal, QMJHL), Jaroslav Vlach (Liberec/Benátky).

General Manager: Petr Komers
Head Coach: Miroslav Přerost
Assistant Coaches: Jiří Juřík a Jiří Fischer 

Goaltending Coach: Roman Višňák 
Team Doctor: Dr. Marcel Hujo
Video Technician: Jan Procházka 

Physiotherapist: Radovan Sakaláš
Custodians, Masseurs: Leoš Mitáček, Zdeněk Šmíd

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Record crowd watches junior game in Brno

The Czech Junior Hockey Extraliga, usually ignored by all but the most enthusiastic fans of the sport, was front and centre in Brno on Saturday night, as a league-record 4,823 fans went through the turnstiles of Kajot Arena to watch hometown Kometa take on Sparta Praha.

The record-sized jersey is visible in the background as the national
anthem is played. Photo: Martin Kocourek,
Junior hockey games in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe are usually played before friends-and-family gatherings, even at the leagues' highest levels. As an example, the final game of last year's league championship series between Znojmo and Karlovy Vary was attended by 1,914, and that was considered a good crowd.

The event was organised by the Kometa club to try to get into the record book in a few different categories. In addition to the crowd, they also set the record for largest fan scarf, at 60 x 6 metres, and largest jersey, at 300 square metres.

"This game was great publicity for junior hockey," said Czech Ice Hockey Association President Tomáš Král on the Kometa website, who has long tried to increase the profile of Czech junior hockey. "It was just a wonderful atmosphere that I completely absorbed. I am convinced that every visitor at Saturday's game felt it is sure to return to see another game, which only helps junior hockey."

Raising interest in junior hockey in Brno is good news for the Czech Ice Hockey Association because that's where the IIHF World U18 Championship will be played in April

The fans in attendance were treated to a great effort from their team as well. Despite outshooting Sparta 49-29 on the night, it took a goal by Jan Káňa with 11:42 remaining in regulation time to break the 3-3 tie, a goal that held up as the eventual game winner. Kometa was led by two goals from Jakub Novák and a goal and an assist from Tomáš Dujsík. Sparta got two goals from Martin Procházka and two assists from Stanislav Eis. Káňa's goal gives him 28 points, which makes him the league's leading scorer.

After 22 games, Kometa Brno is second place in the Junior Extraliga standings with 50 points. They trail the leaders, Litvínov by 3 points. Sparta is currently fifth with 41 points. With a victory, they could have jumped ahead of Jihlava and Chomutov into third.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ambitious Project

A Czech hockey fan in the United States is working on the ambitious project of trying to document as many players as possible who defected from Communist Czechoslovakia to North America between 1948 and 1989. To make this task even more daunting, he is not including NHL or WHA players "not because I'm not interested but because their stories are generally pretty well documented."

Personally, I've never heard of most of the players on the list and certainly can't help add to it, but perhaps some readers could help. If you read more of Greg D'Avis' blog, The Post-Pessimist Association, you will find he is working on other projects related to Czech hockey as well, including information on the post-playing careers and current status of several players.

Here is the list of players he has compiled so far:

Jiří Bastl -- Fringe player for Sparta Praha and Kladno in the 1960s. Defected late that decade, apparently to West Germany at first (though details are sketchy). Made his way to North America where he attended a Blackhawks training camp and played in the IHL, then went back to Germany. Coached for a while. Now lives in Switzerland, and is (I think, again) the father of tennis player George Bastl.

Kristián Cee -- Sparta defenseman of the 1940s and 1950s. Became a doctor during his playing days. Post-career, traveled to Western Europe through Yugoslavia in 1966, settling in West Germany. Returned to the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism, and died last year.

Jaroslav Drobný -- Now here's a guy worth looking into: a forward for I. ČLTK Praha, he was also a tennis star and defected at a 1949 tournament. He got Egyptian (sure, why not?) citizenship, won the 1954 Wimbledon men's singles tournament, and eventually settled in Britain. He died there in 2001.

Jiří Hanzl -- uncertain on this one, but I think that post-career, the Sparta goalie defected to West Germany. He definitely ended up coaching there for a while.

Petr Hejma -- 1968 Olympian, forward for Sparta Praha. Defected to West Germany following a Sparta exhibition match in September 1968. Played many years for Düsseldorf and Krefeld, still lives in Germany.

Zdeněk Hlásek -- Sparta forward during the 1950s. Not sure of the date but defected in the 1960s. Still lives in Switzerland, and like Bastl his son ended up a professional tennis player.

Jiří Kren -- Sparta forward, defected during the 1963 Spengler Cup. Played in the Canadian minor leagues for a season then back to Germany and Switzerland. I exchanged letters with him a few years ago; he was making wine in northern Italy, which does not sound half bad.

Oldřich Kučera -- 1936 Olympian, longtime LTC Praha forward. Post-career details are scant, but by 1949 he was coaching in Switzerland, and reportedly eventually ended up in Australia.

Viktor Lonsmín -- covered at length here.

Martin Maglay -- 1970s junior goalie, fled along with or around the same time as Jiří Crha. Ended up in the Maple Leafs system but it's unclear if he ever played; he was beaten up during a mugging and that effectively ended his career. Runs hockey school programs in Ontario.

Zdeněk Marek -- forward for ATK Praha and Sparta, defected at 1949 World Championships. Played at least one season for the University of North Dakota; I don't know if he played any organized hockey after that. Lived in New York for a long time. Reportedly passed away in 2009, though that's strangely hard to confirm.

Stanislav Nepomucký -- Sparta defenseman in the 1950s. Defected during an exhibition tour in 1958. Played at least one season for HIJS Den Haag in the Netherlands; eventually ended up in the United States and changed his last name to "Nielsen." Passed away in 2006.

Jiří Petrnoušek -- Sparta youngster, defected to the Netherlands in 1968 at age 21. Played for Tilburg for a very long time and represented the Dutch in the 1980 Olympics. Think he still lives there.

Jiří Pokorný -- defected late 1960s, date unclear, not clear if he was currently active when it happened. Wound up as player-coach for Tilburg in Netherlands in 1969-70, then coached in Netherlands and West Germany through the 1970s. I'm still looking for more information on him, by the way.

Miloslav Pospíšil -- Forward for ATK Praha, Tatra Smichov, and Sparta. Wound down his career in the early 1960s, fled to Austria in 1968. Eventually wound up in North America, and lived in New York until his death in 2000.

Rudolf Šindelář -- Sparta forward from the late '50s through the '70s. Escaped to Austria (I think) at some point post-career. Now lives back in the Czech Republic.

Miroslav Sláma -- Fellow I don't know much about -- I. ČLTK Praha defenseman, 1948 Olympian. According to notes on the Society for International Hockey Research website, he defected during the 1948 Spengler Cup tournament and spent several years playing and coaching in Switzerland. Ended up in the U.S., died in California in 2008.

Zdeněk Tikal -- Brother of Czech legend František. Not sure what level Zdeněk played at in Czechoslovakia -- I haven't turned up any records with major teams. Went to Australia with his father in 1948, played on the Australian national team in the 1960 Olympics. Died in 1991.

Jaroslav Tůma -- Like Petrnoušek, another Sparta youngster, may have defected at the same time. Ended up with Tilburg (along with Petrnoušek and Pokorný), where he put up frankly ridiculous numbers. Went to West Germany after a few years and still did well; eventually wound up in Switzerland, I think.

Ivo Veselý -- Like Zdeněk Tikal, I know nothing about his Czechoslovak career -- like ZT, went to Australia and ended up on the 1960 team. Died 2002.

Oldřich Zabrodský -- Brother of Vladimír (see below). Forward for LTC Praha, fled to Switzerland in 1948, where he played for Davos and Lausanne for a few years. Lived in Belgium last I knew.

Vladimír Zábrodský -- Legendary forward for LTC Praha and Sparta, subject of much controversy. Escaped to Sweden at some point. Still lives there.

Greg D'Avis can be followed on Twitter @gsdgsd.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nový elected to IIHF Hall of Fame

The International Ice Hockey Association announced on Friday its list of inductees to the International Hockey Hall of Fame  for 2012, and among them is former Czech great Milan Nový.

Nový at the 1976 Canada Cup. Photo: tm50.
Nový was one of international hockey's greatest stars of the 1970s; some hailed him as the best centre in the world at the time. He was the biggest star during Czechoslovakia's run of back-to-back World Championships in 1976 and 1977, scoring 36 points over 14 games in those two tournaments. Over his career, he scored 122 goals in 214 games with the national team.

The Kladno native became a noted name among North American hockey fans at the 1976 Canada Cup, where he helped lead Czechoslovakia into the tournament final with 8 points in seven games, which included scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Canada during the round-robin phase of the tournament. He was named to the tournament all-star team at centre.

Domestically, he played at the top level of Czechoslovakian hockey from 1968 to 1982 and 1986 to 1989 for Kladno and Jihlava, where he scored 594 career goals. His most impressive season was 1976-77, when he scored 59 goals in only 44 games for Kladno. He also played one season for the NHL's Washington Capitals in 1982-83 and briefly for Swiss club Zürich SC Lions and Austrian club Wiener EV before ruturning home.

For more on Nový's life and career, visit his profile at

Other inductees are Russian Pavel Bure, Finn Raimo Helminen, American Phil Housley, and Canadian coach Andy Murray.

From, here is a list of Czechs that have previously been inducted into the Hall:

Quido Adamec
Vladimír Bouzek
Vlastimil Bubník
Luděk Bukač
Josef Černý
Jaroslav Drobný
Karel Gut
Ivan Hlinka
Jiří Holeček
Jiří Holík
Vladimír Kostka
Josef Maleček
Vladimír Martinec
Bohumil Modrý
Milan Nový
František Pospíšil
Miroslav Šubrt
Jan Suchý
František Tikal
Vladimír Zábrodský