Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Martin Růžička: European Player of the Month for October.


At the first international break, the Czech Extraliga's leading scorer is not Kladno's Jaromír Jágr or Tomáš Plekanec, despite the fine and high-profile tour they've made around the country, filing arenas everywhere they go, nor is it any of the many other locked NHLers who have flocked to the league. It is Oceláři Třineč's Martin Růžička, who has 36 points in 19 games and racked up an amazing total of 20 points in 10 games in the month of October. He did so in relative obscurity, tucked away in a small industrial town on the Polish border.

Photo: NČR PRESS/Lenka Rybaříková.
Far away, in the capital city of Prague, mention hockey and the name Růžička nearly everybody will think of Vladimír, former star player and now coach of Slavia. Even the name Martin Růžička might lead to some confusion, as the starting goaltender in Pardubice has the exact same name. Yet the career that Martin Růžička the forward has made for himself since arriving in Třinec as a 24-year-old in 2009 is impressive.

To that point, he had bounced between four different clubs in the Extraliga and I.liga, never recording more than 18 points in a season and failing to distinguish himself as top-line player. However, in the 2009-10 season, he recorded 47 points in 50 games, which was enough to earn him a spot on that year's gold-medal winning Czech team at the World Championship.

He followed that up with 50 more points the next year, but he that was just a precursor to the playoff he would have. There, he shattered the league playoff scoring record, recording 33 points in 18 games, leading Oceláři to their first, and so far only, national championship.

After a year with Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL, he's back in Třinec this season, and what a season it's been so far. He has failed to register a point in only two of the 19 games he has played. His most dominant performance came October 5, when he was in on all 5 of the game's goals in his team's 5-0 shutout victory over visiting Česke Budějovice, thanks to a hat trick and 2 assists. He finished his amazing month with a 4-point effort against local rival Vítkovice on October 28.

Apparently, a month like that will get you attention no matter where you play -- not only national but all across Europe. readers voted him Europe's best hockey player for the month of October. Not only was he competing against Jágr and Plekanec for that honour, but other names like Henrik Zetterberg, Alexander RadulovIlya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.

Unfortunately, European hockey fans won't get the chance to see him in action this week at the Karjala Cup -- he's being kept out with back trouble. However, it seems to be only precautionary, and he's expected to be back in the lineup when Třinec returns to the ice next week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A lot of factors to consider when building Karjala roster

When Europe's top four hockey nations released their roster last week for the Karjala Cup, the first leg of this year's Euro Hockey Tour, there was a lot of head-scratching among observers. With the surplus of bona fide talent playing in Europe right now, some were anticipating an all-star tournament of sorts in Finland that might include the likes of Jaromíř Jágr, Alexander Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg and others. But while some locked out NHLers were chosen to represent Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, the teams have mostly been made up of players committed to Europe for the full season.

Tomáš Hertl might get a shot at the World Championship this 
year if NHLers are unavailable. Photo:
The announcement of a roster without Jágr, David Krejči, Aleš Hemský and Tomáš Vokoun was especially disappointing to hockey fans in Liberec, who were hoping to see an all-star cast assemble this Thursday when the Czech Republic hosts Sweden to open the tournament. In fact, the Czech Republic could have built an entire team based completely on NHLers now playing in the Czech Extraliga and KHL.

"Of course, if Jarda Jágr plays, the fans will come," said Czech national team coach Alois Hadamczik. "But for me it can be rather annoying; if the NHL starts, we're going to the World Championships with only players in Europe."

Indeed, he's probably right. Of course, everyone remembers the last NHL lockout, the one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season and left virtually all players free to compete in that year's World Championship. The Czech Republic, with an all-star cast that included Jágr and Vokoun, won the gold medal with a 3-0 victory over Canada in the final.

However, fewer people remember the tournament in 1995. That year, when a lockout forced the NHL to begin a 48-game schedule in mid January that finished in early May, no NHL players were free to compete in the World Championship. That year, the Czech Republic, with a roster composed entirely of Extraliga players, finished 4th, losing the bronze medal game to a Canadian team composed of players from the AHL, IHL and European leagues. If the scenario of 1995 repeats itself, which seems like a very good possibility at this point, Hadamczik has to create a team of players in Europe, and he wants to get potential players ready to play during the Euro Hockey Tour.

Balancing the possibilities between NHLers and domestics, his roster for the Karjala Cup includes both: Ondrej Pavelec, Marek Židlický, Ladislav Šmíd, Tomáš Plekanec, and Jiří Tlustý will be there (although Židlický and Plekanec will only play in Liberec), but so will young charges Jakub Krejčík, Jakub Svoboda and Tomáš Hertl.

Under normal circumstances, Hertl would probably be at the U20 tournament, which will run concurrently in Sweden in preparation for this year's World Junior Championship, but since an all-European-based Czech team at the Worlds would almost certainly include Hertl, it's important to get him playing time with the big boys.

Even with a few big names missing, there are still plenty of players to follow at the Karjala Cup, however. Most games will be televised in the Czech Replublic on ČT Sport and live text coverage will be available in English at From, below is the Czech roster, their lineup for the first game against Sweden (Wednesday at 18:00 CET) and the tournament schedule.

Czech roster for the Karjala Cup (November 7 - 10, Turku, Finland and Liberec):


Ondřej Pavelec
 (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Alexandr Salák (Färjestad, Sweden).


Marek Židlický
 (Rytíři Kladno), Ladislav Šmíd (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Petr Čáslava (Cherepovets, KHL), Jakub Nakládal (Spartak Moscow, KHL), Filip Novák (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Jakub Kindl (HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice), Jakub Krejčík (HC Lev Praha, KHL), Lukáš Galvas (HC Oceláři Třinec).


Tomáš Plekanec, Jiří Tlustý
 (both Rytíři Kladno), Petr Nedvěd (Bílí Tygři Liberec), Jiří Novotný (HC Lev Praha, KHL), Zbyněk Irgl (Dynamo Minsk, KHL), Michal Vondrka (Slovan Bratislava, KHL), Jakub Petružálek (Khabarovsk, KHL), Petr Koukal (Nizhnekamsk, KHL), Petr Hubáček (Jyväskylä, Finland), Jan Kovář (HC Škoda Plzeň), Jakub Svoboda (HC Kometa Brno), Tomáš Hertl (HC Slavia Praha), Lukáš Pech (HC Energie Karlovy Vary).

General Manager: Slavomír Lener
Head Coach: Alois Hadamczik
Assistant Coach: Josef Paleček
Assistant & Video Coach: Jan Procházka
Team Manager: Jan Černý
Team Doctor: Dr. Zdeněk Ziegelbauer
Physiotherapist: Michal Truc
Equipment Manager: Zdeněk Šmíd
Trainer: Petr Ondráček

Announced lineup (and line combinations) vs Sweden in Liberec:

Salák (Pavelec) - Židlický, Šmíd, Novák, Čáslava, Kindl, Nakládal, Krejčík, Galvas - Nedvěd, Plekanec, Tlustý - Petružálek, Koukal, Vondrka - Irgl, Novotný, Hubáček - Hertl, Kovář, Svoboda (Pech).

2012 Karjala Cup schedule:

Wednesday, November 7:

17:30 Finland - Russia (Turku)
18:00 Czech Republic - Sweden (Liberec)

Friday, November 9:

14:00 Sweden - Russia (Turku)
17:30 Finland - Czech Republic (Turku)

Saturday, November 10:

12:00 Czech Republic - Russia (Turku)
16:00 Finland - Sweden (Turku)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Czech hockey online in English

For the past six weeks, hockey-starved NHL fans have had to depend largely on hockey from Europe to get their fix. While a few games have been on in the United States and the United Kingdom on various ESPN platforms, most have had to search for internet streams with foreign-language broadcasts. These fans should be glad to know that live text commentary will now be available for many games in the Czech Extraliga and KHL.

Left to right: Marek Židlický, Tomáš Kaberle and Tomáš Plekanec
lead Kladno against Brno Tuesday. Josef Poláček,
All Czech hockey fans are familiar with the site, which provides online text coverage of every Czech Extraliga game, as well as in lower men's leagues and top junior leagues. In the past couple of years they have also periodically provided English commentary to international events in the Czech Republic, such last last season's U18 World Championship in Brno, Znojmo and Břeclav.

In the past year and a half, I have covered several international events for the site's English version, called Highlights include the 2011 IIHF Inline championship game in Pardubice and the 2012 U18 Women's championship game in Zlín. Typing events from a hockey game as they happen in rapid succession in a coherent manner takes some getting used to, and at first was a bit stressful, but I've gotten used to it.

Tonight, I will cover a professional hockey game in this manner for the first time: Rytíři Kladno vs Kometa Brno. For the third time this season, Kladno will play a home game at O2 Arena in Prague, the largest venue for hockey in the country. Both previous games drew over 15,000 fans and even more are expected this time. The increased interest in watching Kladno play is, of course, due to the NHL lockout and the subsequent arrival of club owner Jaromír Jágr and several other superstars to the team.

In what will surely be a disappointment to all those who have bought tickets, Jágr will not be in the Kladno lineup tonight, sitting out his second straight game with a yet-to-be-specified lower-body injury (though he says it's not the groin, which has given him trouble in the past). However, familiar names such as Marek Židlický, Tomáš Kaberle, Jan Hlaváč and Tomáš Plekanec will be. For Kometa, non-Czechs might know the names Miloslav Hořava and Róbert Petrovický, who both played in the NHL. The game is important for the league standings, as Brno is in 2nd place with 27 points, one ahead of Kladno.

Zdeno Chára and Alexander Radulov face
each other in KHL action on Thursday.
Photo: Jan Rachota,
Tuesday's game is actually the second that Eurolivecores has done in the Extraliga; on Sunday, Bill Meltzer of provided commentary for Liberec-Kladno.

Coming up on Thursday, I return to O2 Arena to begin KHL online coverage as Lev Praha hosts CSKA Moscow, a matchup that will feature Zdeno Chára against Pavel Datsyuk. It will be a rematch of last Thursday's meeting in Moscow, where Datsyuk's CSKA club triumped 3-0. As some readers might know, I write for Lev's English website, so I'll try my best not to be a homer. In addition to all Lev home games that I'll be on location for, myself and a team of other commentators will provide commentary of other select KHL games, either from the arena or remotely.

Tuesday's Kladno-Brno matchup begins at 18:15 CET, 12:15 ET. Thursday's Lev-CSKA battle begins at 19:00 CET, 1pm ET.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jágr, Plekanec to debut at O2

Everyone knew that once the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and its Players' Association lapsed at midnight Eastern Time on Saturday night, it wouldn't take long for players to start joining European leagues. It sure didn't take long.

Jágr in a Kladno jersey. Photo: Josef Paláček,
On Saturday, before the expiration of the contract, Kladno natives Jaromír Jágr and Tomáš Plekanec were practicing with their home town Extraliga club, Rytíři, the club that Jágr actually owns. The team is apparently so anxious to make a spectacle of the debut of these players that they have moved their October 7 home game against Slavia Praha up to this Wednesday, September 19, and from the small arena in Kladno to the largest hockey venue in the country: Prague's O2 Arena. The change has already been made on the schedule on Kladno's website, but not Slavia's or at

With a capacity of more than 17 000, O2 Arena would seem to be the perfect stage for such a big event. It also seems that it might not be only Jágr and Plekanec, either. The club's website declared the possibility of the pair playing "with other players". A club press released announced that they would try to sign up to five locked out NHLers; Kladno natives in the league include Michael Frolík, Tomáš Kaberle, Ondřej Pavelec, Jiří Tlustý, Jakub Voráček and Marek Židlický. As this would be a Kladno home game, the website also gives information on ticket information and free transportation to O2 Arena, a mere 35 km (23 miles) away.

"This is an exceptional sporting event and we hope that it will be of great interest," said Václav Bartoš, the club's Executive Director. "We want to offer a great experience to as many fans as possible and promote Kladno hockey with our best players outside of our city. We would also like to accommodate all the Kladno fans and season-ticket holders who would like to go."

In a funny twist, the visiting team will be the building's normal tenant, Slavia Praha. Slavia's season ticket holders won't have their regular seats reserved, but it's expected that because of the magnitude of this event, most of them will buy tickets, along with their usual "fan club" group (who will likely be given their familiar end of the rink) and thousands of other hockey fans who may have no particular affiliation to either team.  Despite being the visiting team, it's expected that Slavia will dress in their home dressing room and use their normal home bench, but wear their white road sweaters, while Kladno will wear home blue.

Though Slavia has not officially declared its pursuit of NHL players, their alumni in the NHL include Roman Červenka, an off-season signing of the Calgary Flames who is a former linemate of Jágr on the Czech national team as well as Avangard Omsk of the KHL. Others include Petr KadlecPavel Kolářík and Vladimír Sobotka.

The building is expected to have a different atmosphere than a Slavia home game, as they often struggle to attract a crowd large enough to create a good atmosphere. Last year, the club's dismal season meant that fewer than 4500 fans per game came out. However, Slavia also played host to the league's largest crowd of the season, 11 284 against cross-town rival Sparta on January 15. The last time Jágr played for Kladno at O2 Arena was during the 2004-05 season; a game that attracted 15 785 fans. O2 Arena has attracted four of the five largest crowds in Extraliga history.

Kladno then has a regularly scheduled home game against Vítkovice on Friday, which presumably could be the first game that Jágr et al play actually in their home town. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Increased workload makes blog suffer

The arrival of a Kontinental Hockey League club in Prague is a watershed moment in Czech  hockey, as it means that this country will see arguably its highest calibre of club hockey since the 1980s, when top players began trickling out of Czechoslovakia to the west.

The arrival of HC Lev Praha makes Derek a busy boy.
Photo: Ondřej Kalát,
Thursday is the day when Lev Praha makes its KHL debut on home ice at Tipsport Arena against Dinamo Riga. Though it has been known for months that this day was coming, I have not commented much about it, as I knew I would be writing for the team website and I therefore felt writing under the guise of unbiased journalism wouldn't be fair. Therefore, I want to make it clear that I am in fact working for the club.

I started this blog two years ago in hopes of breaking into hockey writing and filling a gap that I noticed, namely the lack of Czech hockey news and analysis in English. As a native English speaker living in the Czech Republic with an extensive background in hockey and writing, I felt myself more than qualified to fill that gap. To that end, I feel I have made definite progress.

In December 2010 I began contributing to, in June 2011, and in the past 18 months, I have had paid assignments covering four IIHF World Championship tournaments, including three writing for the English versions of official tournament websites (2011 Inline World Championship in Pardubice, 2012 U18 Women's World Championship in Zlín, and 2012 U18 Men's World Championship in Brno). I also contributed from afar writing for Lev Poprad, the short-lived KHL franchise in the Slovakian Tatra Mountains.

If there was a downside to all of that extra work, it meant that I had less free time to write on this blog. Indeed, the number of entries for the 2011-12 season was approximately half of the previous year. This year, with the KHL in Prague, I have a great opportunity to further my writing career, but it will also take a great deal more of my time. Writing almost daily for Lev, as well as making contributions to the website of their corporate partner, HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga, added on top of a full-time teaching job does not leave me a whole lot of time to write as a hobby.

I want to make it clear that I am not saying I am finished with this blog. If there is big news from the Czech Extraliga, I will probably still write something. Also, around December, I will report on the developments of the Czech U20 national team as it prepares for the World Junior Championships, as articles I've written the past two years on the team have generated a lot of traffic from abroad. Just don't expect daily, or even necessarily weekly updates, as was common in the past.

As I write this, it is less than seven hours from the opening faceoff. For my preview of the game, click here, and check back often for previews, game reports, and player interviews throughout the season. If you don't already, following me on Twitter (@Djob76) will keep you informed about any other outlets that I might contribute to.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August hockey heats up

Although I'm away from the Czech Republic for the month of August, the world of hockey continues on. Perhaps the most significant thing I've missed in my absence is the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. In 2011, I attended every game played in Břeclav, covering it for Czech Hockey Report as well as

In 2012, Eurohockey was on hand again, with Jon Rowson, Henrik Lundqvist (not the goalie) and Romon Solovyev doing a good job of providing coverage. For those who missed it, Canada won the tournament for the fifth straight year, defeating Finland 4-0 in the final. The Czech Republic, who feared a lack of offense heading in, made it to the semifinal where they fell 2-1 to Sweden on a late goal.

However, the Ivan Hlinka was not the only hockey event going on in Moravia this weekend. The Women's Summer Camp finished up in Brumov-Bylnice, with Tyler Bilton providing coverage. Slavia Praha was the Czech representative at the seven-team event, finishing second by taking 13 of a possible 18 points. Slavia's only regulation loss was to Russian club HC Tornado, who blew away everybody they faced, outscoring their opponents 32-1 over the course of the tournament.

Kverka takes the opening faceoff vs Norway.
While two international tournaments finished on Saturday, another began. For the second straight year, HC Karlovy Vary is representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Club Cup in Omsk, Russia. They finished second place last year and are off to a good start in 2012, beating the Norway U20 national team 3-1 in the opening game. KV got two first period goals from Tomáš Harkabus and another in the first minute of the second from captain Jaromír Kverka, while Vladislav Habal stopped 19 of 20 Norwegian shots.

"Today it was a very important game that we did not want to lose, we wanted to gain confidence, which we finally did," Kverka told the MHL website. "Norway played aggressive hockey and at the beginning we had problems, but then we started playing smarter and we won."

Things should only get more difficult from this point. After playing the United States Hockey League's Waterloo Black Hawks on Sunday (16:00 MSK, 14:00 CET, 7am CT), they play two MHL teams: the host Omsk Hawks (Tuesday) and Dinamo-Shinnik Bobrusk (Wednesday). Karlovy Vary will be a member of this league too in the upcoming season.

Tournament semifinals will be played Saturday and the final on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Czech U17 & U18 teams face challenges at home in August tourneys

For those looking to pursue a career in hockey, there is no off-season, and by August things are already in full swing. This month, two age categories are staging international tournaments in the Czech Republic, U17 and U18. Starting August 7, the U17s are hosting a five-team tournament in North Bohemia. The following week, the U18s take centre stage in southeast Moravia. The Czech Republic has faced many challenges trying to rebuild a national youth program over the past few years and the coaches of both age groups, Jiří Veber and Luděk Bukač Jr, look ahead to the challenges they face this coming season.

U18 Coach Luděk Bukač Jr looks ahead to the challenges at the Ivan
Hlinka tournament and beyond. Photo: Tomáš Čekal.
The larger of the two events is the U18 tournament, the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial, will, as usual, be co-hosted by Břeclav along with nearby Piešťany, Slovakia. Despite underperforming regularly at this tournament, as well as at last year's U18 World Championship in Brno, Znojmo and Břeclav, Bukač brings with him a large part of his U17 team that finished second place in Hradec Králové last February, although there are a few notable exceptions. Three players, Jakub Vrána, David Pastrňák and Martin Kohout, are missing due to injuries. Six other players, Patrik Zdráhal, Adam Zbořil, Dominik Kubalík, David Němeček, David Sysala and Jan Košťálek, are all going overseas to join CHL teams and declined invitations to play for the team.

The lack of dedication to the national team clearly frustrates Bukač. Comparing his situation to the Swedish team, he said, "Their coaches invited their players and all of them accepted. No one was missing. As coaches, our goal is to set up a strategy for our national program, starting at the U16 level, and have the rules respected. We want our players to respect the program.

"The Hlinka Memorial Tournament is difficult, but I believe that we have a very good team," he continued. "As far as conditioning goes, we are ready. It is true that we're missing some forwards who scored a lot of goals for us in the past, but we have to compensate in other areas."

Last year's Czech team at the Hlinka tournament was Jiří Veber, now heads up the U17 team, which will host the USA, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland in four towns in North Bohemia, with Chomutov serving as the main venue. Veber takes over a squad that was headed last season by Robert Reichel and started well, but had trouble in its last few tournaments.

"I don't know what the reason was; if it was injuries, goaltending, but I'm not looking back. I'm thinking about right now," he said. "We are starting from scratch. We looked at the players in camp, and now we're concentrating on this tournament. We are consistent, and we require certain things. We firmly believe that it will work. Although, it depends on how we respond in the games, of course."

Czech roster and schedule for the U17 tournament:

Karel Vejmelka (Třebíč), David Pírs (Sparta Praha), Aleš Sova (Č. Budějovice).

Filip Pyrochta (Liberec), Jakub Zbořil (Kometa Brno), Tomáš Havlín (Liberec), Lukáš Vopelka (Örebrö, Sweden), Dominik Mašín (Slavia Praha), Filip Moravec (Litvínov), Robert Horák (Olomouc), Jan Ščotka (Vsetín).

Pavel Jenyš (Kometa Brno), Samuel Ollender, Dominik Kafka (both Vítkovice), Josef Stříbrný (Litvínov), Pavel Zacha (both Liberec), Martin Beneš, Václav Krliš (both Plzeň), Tomáš Andres (Slavia Praha), Michal Kovařčík (Třinec), Petr Macháček, Martin Strunz (both Chomutov), Radek Pilař (Hradec Králové).

Team Manager: Milan Hnilička
Head Coach: Jiří Veber
Assistant Coach: Petr Svoboda
Goaltending Coach: Michal Podolka
Team Doctor: Dr. Tomáš Madrý
Treasurer: Maroš Solenský

Tuesday, August 7:
18:00 Slovakia - Switzerland (Chomutov)
18:00 Czech Republic - Germany (Kadaň)

Wednesday, August 8:
18:00 USA - Germany (Chomutov)
18:00 Czech Republic - Slovakia (Klášterec n. O.)

Thursday, August 9:
18:00 Switzerland - USA (Chomutov)
18:00 Germany - Slovakia (Kadaň)

Friday, August 10:
16:30 Germany - Switzerland (Klášterec n. O.)
18:00 Czech Republic - USA (Chomutov)

Saturday, August 11:
12:00 Slovakia - USA (Chomutov)
15:30 Czech Republic - Switzerland (Chomutov)

Czech roster and schedule for the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament:

Štěpán Lukeš (Chomutov), René Svoboda (Vítkovice).

Defencemen:Tomáš Andrlík (Plzeň), Martin Kokeš (Litvínov), Roman Čermák (Jihlava), Ondřej Šafář (K. Vary), Jan Štencl (Vítkovice), Tomáš Dvořák (H. Brod), Michal Beránek (Liberec), Alex Pisárik (Třinec).

Forwards:Jiří Kepka, Roman Přikryl, Miroslav Indrák (all Plzeň), Dominik Pokorný (Sparta Praha), Petr Česlík (Vítkovice), Václav Pašek, Luboš Rob (both Č. Budějovice), Ondřej Kaše, David Kampf (both Chomutov), Martin Slánský (Kladno), Ondřej Kovářů (Lukko Rauma, Finland), Jan Mandát (Jihlava), Dan Nádrazský (Davos, Switzerland).

Jakub Kalfiřt (Liberec), Adam Škutchan (Vítkovice), Jan Litera (Letňany).

Team Manager: Otakar Černý
Head Coach: Luděk Bukač Jr.
Assistant Coach: David Bruk
Goaltending Coach: Radek Toth
Team Doctor: Dr. Milan Novotný
Treasurer: Zdeněk Vojtěchovský

Group in Břeclav: Czech Republic, USA, Russia, Finland
Group in Piešťany: Slovakia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland

Monday, August 13:
14:00 Switzerland - Canada (Piešťany)
15:30 USA - Russia (Břeclav)
17:30 Slovakia - Sweden (Piešťany)
19:00 Czech Republic - Finland  (Břeclav)

Tuesday, August 14:
14:00 Canada - Sweden (Piešťany)
15:30 Russia - Finland (Břeclav)
17:30 Slovakia - Switzerland (Piešťany)
19:00 Czech Republic - USA (Břeclav)

Wednesday, August 15:
14:00 Sweden - Switzerland (Piešťany)
15:30 Finland - USA (Břeclav)
17:30 Slovakia - Canada (Piešťany)
19:00 Czech Republic - Russia (Břeclav)

Friday August 17:
14:00 Placement game (Piešťany)
15:30 Placement game (Břeclav)
17:30 Semifinal (Piešťany)
19:00 Semifinal (Břeclav)

Saturday, August 18:14:00 Final or 3rd place game (Piešťany)
17:00 Final or 3rd place game (Břeclav)

Quotations, rosters and schedules courtesy of

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New season begins July 31

The last day of July seems to be the start of the 2012-13 hockey season, at least in the Czech Republic.

Action from last year's European Trophy, featuring Sparta
Praha against Linkoping.
The last day of July sees the first game of the 2012 European Trophy, and it will be hosted by the Czech Extraliga's newest team, Piráti Chomutov, against Slovan Bratislava. Just as last year, seven Czech clubs will compete in the 32-team tournament, with Piráti taking the place of Slavia Praha. The other six are Sparta Praha, Bílí Tygři Liberec, Pardubice, České Budějovice, Plzeň 1929 and Kometa Brno.

What began as a pre-season tournament for Scandinavian clubs, the European Trophy has grown in size and stature over the past few years, to the extent where last season teams were refusing to relinquish players to their respective national teams so they could compete for the championship. This season, more of the tournament has been scheduled into the traditional international breaks, and it is assumed players will stick with their club teams then as well. In recent IIHF-led discussions about the future of club hockey in Europe, one of the speculated scenarios had the competition grow into a full-out international league.

The top eight teams will play in the Red Bull Salute, December 15 to 18 in Bratislava and Vienna. The full tournament schedule can be seen here. Last season, three Czech teams were among the final eight.

The last day of July also sees the first-ever exhibition game for the first Czech-based club to compete in the Kontinental Hockey League: Lev Praha. They kick off their 10-game pre-season schedule on Tuesday night at Svijanská Arena in Liberec against Rytíři Kladno at 17:30 CET. The Lions then take on host Bílí Tygři in a cat fight on Thursday night.

Jaroslav Svoboda shoots on Drew MacIntyre at Lev Praha's
first training camp. Photo: Vladimír Jína,
A similarly-named club based in Poprad, Slovakia competed in the KHL last season, and this edition of HC Lev has a few returnees, including captain Ľuboš Bartečko along with defenceman Jiří Hunkes and forwards Juraj Mikúš and Jiří Sekáč. Other notable names include goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle, defenceman Michal Sersen and forward Tomáš Rachůnek, who all played last season for Sparta, as well as ex-NHLers Tomáš Mojžíš, Marcel Hossa, Erik Christensen, Jiří Novotný, Michal Řepík and Jaroslav Svoboda.

The team's pre-season roster and schedule are available now at the Czech version of the club website; the English version should be online within a week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jaškin: "I want to go to Canada"

Less than an hour after being drafted by the Moncton Wildcats in the Canadian Hockey League's Import Draft,'s Vaclav Jachim is reporting that Slavia Praha's Dmitrij Jaškin has decided to play there next year.

"I've arranged with Slavia to leave. I want to go to Canada," the report says. "I've thought a lot about it. If I play in the CHL, I have a chance to get from there to the NHL. And that's my goal."

His attitude was different a year ago.

"Playing in the Czech professional league is better," is what the hulking winger told me last April at the U18 World Championship in Dresden, Germany. 

And why not? A year ago, Jaškin was coming off an impressive rookie season in the Czech Extraliga, one which led to his second-round selection by the St. Louis Blues in the NHL Entry Draft. At that time, Jaškin seemingly had no interest in jumping to the CHL as he prepared for his sophomore pro season.

However, the disastrous season to follow has apparently changed his mind. After registering only 1 goal and 1 assist in 30 Extraliga games, the snake-bitten 18-year-old was sent back to junior. He seemingly got some of his confidence back at lower levels, registering 17 points in 10 Junior Extraliga games, which led to a loan to Beroun of the First League, where he tallied 8 points in 10 games. Upon returning to Slavia in the play-out round, he recorded a more respectable 4 points in seven games.

A player built in the power-forward mold, Jaškin seems to thrive when the game gets physical, and therefore it was speculated that a move to the more physical CHL might be a good move for him, and he apparently agrees. The only sticking point could have been if Slavia had refused to let him go. However, despite the fact that coach and general manager Vladimír Růžička does not seem to agree with Jaškin's decision, he's not going to stand in his way.

"We've had repeated talks with his agent, Aleš Volek, and I've spoken a lot with Dima and his father (former pro Russian defenceman Alexei Yashkin)," said the man known as "Rosy" in his NHL career. "At first, Lexa Yashkin said it would be better if the boy stayed, but later, that he should leave. Of course, it brings me no joy, but we decided to work with the family and not stand in the way of what he wants."

"I knew that Vladimír Růzička would not be happy with this," said Jaškin, "but I hope this change will get me to where I want to be."

All told, 20 Czechs were taken in Wednesday's draft, although one of them, Planá-born Dominik Kohun, now lives in Germany, whom he represents internationally. Additionally, two other players, Slovak Martin Reway and Slovene Jurij Repe, were drafted from Czech clubs.

  4. Martin Reway (SVK)   LW Sparta          Gatineau
 10. Jan Košťálek         D  Sparta          Rimouski
 14. Patrik Polívka       G  Plzeň           Victoria
 22. Dmitrij Jaškin       RW Slavia          Moncton
 23. Jan Bittner          D  Litvínov        Red Deer
 27. Dominik Kubalík      LW Plzeň           Belleville
 28. Patrik Zdráhal       LW Vítkovice       Acadie-Bathurst
 29. Petr Veselý          LW PZ Kladno       Kootenay
 34. Jurij Repe (SLO)     D  Třinec          Saint John
 35. Richard Nejezchleb   RW Slavia          Brandon
 39. Dominik Kohun        LW Heilbronn (GER) Sudbury
 41. Mikuláš Rimmel       RW Vítkovice       Spokane
 44. Aleš Kilnar          LW Vítkovice       Vancouver
 47. Marek Langhamer      G  Pardubice       Medicine Hat
 51. Ladislav Zikmund     RW K. Vary         Ottawa
 52. Jakub Ižacký         LW Třinec          Saint John
 56. Ondřej Kopta         LW Texas (NAHL)    Niagara
 59. Jakub Procházka      LW Litvínov        Kootenay
 64. Adam Zbořil          LW Kometa          Acadie-Bathurst
 71. Eustathio Soumelidis C  Vaasa (FIN)     Everett 
 96. David Němeček        D  Plzeň           Sarnia
116. David Sysala         C  Vítkovice       Niagara

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Eliáš wins 2nd Zlatá hokejka decisively

With the season he had, it shouldn't have even been close and, when the voting results were released, it wasn't. Patrik Eliáš, who recorded 78 points in 82 regular-season NHL games and then helped lead the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final, won the Zlatá hokejka, awarded annually to the best Czech hockey player in the world, by a decisive margin. He previously won the award in 2009.

Eliáš, who is awaiting his U.S. Green Card, was not able to attend the event in person. "I consider the Zlatá hokeja a big award, which I appreciate, and I regret that the time couldn't be managed so that I could come to Karlovy Vary in person," he said via telephone from the Caribbean. On his season, he said, "It was unbelievable how we were able to come together in New Jersey under a new coach (Peter DeBoer). We enjoyed every moment of it."

Jaromír Jágr, a ten-time winner of the award, finished a distant second place, two points ahead of Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michálek. "(The voting result) is a nice reflection of the best season of my career," he told Martin Kézr of website

Other winners from Saturday night's gala were Radka Lhotská, who won as best female player for backstopping the Czech women win the IIHF Division I tournament and qualify for next year's World Championship in Ottawa, Pavel Kubeš, who won for best sledge hockey player, and Petr Mrázek for best junior hockey player.

From, here are the final voting results:

 1. PATRIK ELIÁŠ     New Jersey Devils (NHL)   594 points
 2. JAROMÍR JÁGR     Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) 409
 3. MILAN MICHÁLEK   Ottawa Senators (NHL)     407
 4. RADIM VRBATA     Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)     358
 5. PETR NEDVĚD      Bílí Tygři Liberec (ELH)  336
 6. ROMAN ČERVENKA   Avangard Omsk (KHL)       322
 7. JAKUB VORÁČEK    Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) 310
 8. MARTIN ERAT      Nashville Predators (NHL) 303
 9. TOMÁŠ PLEKANEC   Montreal Canadiens (NHL)  279
10. ONDŘEJ PAVELEC   Winnipeg Jets (NHL)       202 

11. Jakub Kovář (Č. Budějovice) 178 points, 12. Jakub Petružálek (Khabarovsk, KHL) 165, 13. Martin Straka (Plzeň) 161, 14. Tomáš Fleischmann (Florida, NHL) 160, 15. Marek Židlický (New Jersey, NHL) 149, 16. Tomáš Pöpperle (Sparta Praha) 147, 17. Aleš Hemský (Edmonton, NHL) 140, 18. Petr Koukal (Pardubice) 110, 19. David Krejčí (Boston, NHL) 99, 20. Jiří Novotný (Astana, KHL) 97, 21. Petr Ton (Sparta Praha) 91, 22. Petr Vrána (Khabarovsk, KHL) 68, 23. Tomáš Vokoun (Washington, NHL) 59, 24. Jakub Štěpánek (St. Petersburg, KHL) 57, 25. Filip Kuba (Ottawa, NHL) 50, 26. Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL) 46, 27. Radek Duda (Plzeň) 42, 28. Martin Hanzal (Phoenix, NHL) 35, 29. Tomáš Rolinek (Magnitogorsk, KHL) 29, 30. - 31. Jiří Hudler (Detroit, NHL), Jakub Nakládal (Ufa, KHL) both 27, 32. Petr Tenkrát (Sparta Praha) 26, 33. Zbyněk Irgl (Minsk, KHL) 22, 34. Tomáš Divíšek (Kometa Brno) 19, 35. Rostislav Klesla (Phoenix, NHL) 15, 36. Petr Sýkora (Davos, Switzerland) 13, 37. Jan Kolář I. (Pardubice) 11, 38. Petr Kumstát (K. Vary) 10, 39. - 42. Jaroslav Bednář (Lugano, Switzerland), Jiří Burger (Vítkovice), Marek Kvapil (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL) all 9, 43. Zbyněk Michálek (Pittsburgh, NHL) 7, 44. - 45. Miroslav Blaťák (Ufa, KHL), Jakub Klepiš (Dynamo Moscow, KHL) both 6, 46. - 48. Petr Průcha (St. Petersburg, KHL), Petr Sýkora (New Jersey, NHL), Jiří Trvaj (Kometa Brno) all 5, 49. - 52. Jan Kolář II, Robert Kousal (both Pardubice), David Květoň (Třinec), Ondřej Němec (Cherepovets, KHL) all 4, 53. - 54. Martin Havlát (San Jose, NHL), Roman Horák (Calgary, NHL) both 3, 55. - 59. Jan Chábera (Kladno), František Lukeš (Litvínov), Michal Neuvirth (Washington, NHL), Martin Růžička (Khabarovsk, KHL),Ladislav Šmíd (Edmonton, NHL) all 2, 60. - 66. Jan Buchtele (Pardubice), Petr Čajánek (Zlín), Milan Gulaš (Č. Budějovice), Petr Holík (Zlín), Viktor Hübl (Litvínov), Jakub Krejčík (Slavia Praha), Vladimír Sobotka (St. Louis, NHL) all 1.

Previous winners:
1969 - Jan Suchý
1970 - Jan Suchý
1971 - František Pospíšil
1972 - František Pospíšil
1973 - Vladimír Martinec
1974 - Jiří Holeček
1975 - Vladimír Martinec
1976 - Vladimír Martinec
1977 - Milan Nový
1978 - Ivan Hlinka
1979 - Vladimír Martinec
1980 - Peter Šťastný
1981 - Milan Nový
1982 - Milan Nový
1983 - Vincent Lukáč
1984 - Igor Liba
1985 - Jiří Králík
1986 - Vladimír Růžička
1987 - Dominik Hašek
1988 - Vladimír Růžička
1989 - Dominik Hašek
1990 - Dominik Hašek
1991 - Bedřich Ščerban
1992 - Róbert Švehla
1993 - Miloš Holaň
1994 - Roman Turek
1995 - Jaromír Jágr
1996 - Jaromír Jágr
1997 - Dominik Hašek
1998 - Dominik Hašek
1999 - Jaromír Jágr
2000 - Jaromír Jágr
2001 - Jiří Dopita
2002 - Jaromír Jágr
2003 - Milan Hejduk
2004 - Robert Lang
2005 - Jaromír Jágr
2006 - Jaromír Jágr
2007 - Jaromír Jágr
2008 - Jaromír Jágr
2009 - Patrik Eliáš
2010 - Tomáš Vokoun
2011 - Jaromír Jágr
2012 - Patrik Eliáš

Most wins:
10 - Jaromír Jágr
 5 - Dominik Hašek
 4 - Vladimír Martinec
 3 - Milan Nový
 2 - Jan Suchý
 2 - František Pospišil
 2 - Vladimír Růžička
 2 - Patrik Eliáš

Friday, June 22, 2012

Czech NHL Draft preview

This weekend, the best undrafted junior-aged hockey talent in the world collectively has its hopes and dreams focused on Pittsburgh, site of this year's NHL Entry Draft. A number of talented Czechs are expected to be taken, led by Radek Faksa and Tomáš Hertl, who were also both taken in the first round of last month's KHL Entry Draft.

Faksa and Hertl are successful products of the two paths that young Czech players must choose between when deciding what is best for their future. The choice is often a difficult one, and the argument over which is best can go on endlessly. Faksa plays for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, part of the Canadian junior system, while Hertl just won the Rookie-of-the-Year award in the Czech Extraliga, where he played for Slavia Praha.

Though there has not been a Czech first-round pick since Jakub Voráček in 2007, there is a chance their could be three taken this year. In addition to Faksa and Hertl, Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads is highly-ranked.

I previewed the top domestic-based Czech players for and, to avoid being redundant, I won't re-type it, but link to it here. Also included my preview is Nathan Walker, who is not Czech by nationality, but has played in Vítkovice for the past six seasons and is ranked 25th among European-based skaters.

From, here is a list of all Czech prospects that have been ranked by Central Scouting Services, divided into four categories.

Czechs ranked among North American-based skaters:

  7. Radek Faksa    C     Kitchener (OHL)
 20. Martin Frk     RW    Halifax (QMJHL)
 45. Tomáš Hyka     RW    Gatineau (QMJHL)
 97. Matěj Beran    C     P.E.I. (QMJHL)
156. Tomáš Pavelka  D     P.E.I. (QMJHL)
163. Dominik Volek  C/RW  Regina (WHL)
182. Michal Plutnar D     Tri-City (WHL)
190. Patrik Machač  C     Brampton (OHL)

Czechs ranked among North American-based goaltenders:

 8. Patrik Bartošák    Red Deer (WHL)
14. Matěj Machovský    Brampton (OHL)
22. Roman Will         Moncton (QMJHL)
27. Jaroslav Pavelka   Windsor (OHL)

Czechs ranked among European-based skaters:

  5. Tomáš Hertl         C   Slavia Praha
 26. Erik Němec          C   Vítkovice
 38. Aleš Kilnar         LW  Vítkovice
 39. Jakub Ižacký        LW  Třinec
 40. Petr Koblasa        RW  Karlovy Vary
 41. Richard Nejezchleb  RW  Slavia Praha
 60. Ronald Knot         D   Slavia Praha
 62. Martin Procházka    LW  Sparta Praha
 71. Tomáš Nosek         LW  Pardubice
 75. Matěj Zadražil      LW  Karlovy Vary
 76. Adam Hawlik         D   Pardubice
 81. Ondřej Slováček     RW  Vítkovice
 86. Libor Šulák         D   Tatranskí Vlci (MHL)
 91. Jan Bittner         D   Litvínov
 95. Karel Plášil        D   České Budějovice
118. Jiří Sekáč          LW  Lev Poprad (KHL)

Czechs ranked among European-based goaltenders:

  5. Marek Langhamer     Pardubice

Czechs drafted in 2011 (10):
David Musil, Dmitrij Jaškin, David Honzík, Dominik Uher, Lukáš Sedlák, Matěj Stránský, Daniel Přibyl, Richard Nedomlel, Petr Plaček, Ondřej Palát.

Czechs drafted in 2010 (5):
Petr Straka, Jakub Culek, Radko Gudas, Petr Mrázek, Adam Polášek.

Czechs drafted in 2009 (3):
Andrej Nestrašil, Roman Horák, Tomáš Vincour.

Czechs drafted in 2008 (3):
Tomáš Kundrátek, Michal Jordán, Tomáš Kubalík.

Czechs drafted in 2007 (5):
Jakub Voráček, Michal Řepík, Vladimír Růžička, Ondřej Roman, Radim Ostrčil.

Czechs drafted in 2006 (8):
Michael Frolík, Jiří Tlustý, Tomáš Káňa, Michal Neuvirth, Ondřej Fiala, David Květoň, Jakub Kovář, Martin Látal.

Czechs drafted in 2005 (13):
Martin Hanzal, Jakub Kindl, Petr Kalus, Ondřej Pavelec, Radek Smoleňák, Jakub Vojta, Vladimír Sobotka, Tomáš Pöpperle, Tomáš Pospíšil, Tomáš Kudělka, Marek Kvapil, Lukáš Vantuch, David Kuchejda.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Zlatá hokejka time again

It's almost time once again for the awarding of the Zlatá hokejka, the Golden Stick, to the best Czech hockey player of the past season, regardless of where in the world he played. Ten finalists have been announced, and on June 23, some of the best Czech hockey players in the world, along with other important and well-dressed people will gather at the prestigious Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary to crown this year's winner.

Will Patrik Eliáš win his 2nd Zlatá
hokejka? Photo: James Teterenko
For me, this is the second Zlatá hokejka campaign that I have followed closely. Last year, based on the list of ten finalists, I concluded that David Krejčí of the Boston Bruins should have been the winner. Had the vote not taken place before the Final, he still might have been, but I figured he had still done enough to win, considering he was leading the Stanley Cup playoff scoring race. Coming from a Vancouver Canucks fan, fresh off an excruciating defeat, that was a bold prediction. But I forgot to factor something in.

That something is, if Jaromír Jágr has a chance of winning, he will.

Last year, he had 50 points in 49 games with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League before leading them to a defeat in the Gagarin Cup quarterfinals. In the World Championship, he turned on the gas, recording 9 points in nine games, including his first-ever hat trick for the Czech national team, en route to a bronze medal. A fine season, to be sure, but was it the finest of any Czech hockey player that year? I say no, but then, I'm not Czech.

The question this year is, does Jágr have a chance of winning his unprecedented 11th award? Returning to the NHL, he recorded 54 points in 73 regular season games, then 8 points in 11 points, as the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated in the second round. He declined an invite to play in the World Championships after his team was finished, which may take him out of the running, as so much weight seems to be given by voters to success in that tournament.

So, if not Jágr, then who? The next group of players after him to look at are those from the so-called Zlatá generace (Golden Generation), the group of players that formed the core of the team that won five World Championships and one Olympic gold medal between 1996 and 2005. Though it can be debated exactly which players belong in that class, one player in the top 10, Patrik Eliáš, is certainly a member. This past season, at age 36, Eliáš recorded 78 points in 81 games for the New Jersey Devils, which made him far and away the most productive Czech in the NHL, 16 points ahead of Krejčí and Radim Vrbata. In fact, Eliáš's season isn't even finished yet, as his Devils are currently playing in the Stanley Cup Final. Eliáš has won previously, in 2009.

Of course, New Jersey's playoff success kept Eliáš from playing in the World Championship. However, despite the Czech Republic's bronze-medal finish, the team lacked an outstanding individual performance that they got in 2011 from Jágr and Ondřej Pavelec, who is again a finalist this year. Somewhat surprisingly, goaltender Jakub Kovář did not make the cut this year. The only World Championship players in the top 10 are Martin Erat, Milan Michálek, Petr Nedvěd and Tomáš Plekanec. Plekanec registered 7 points in 10 games, while Erat arrived midway through and got 4 points in five games.

Nedvěd might be a sentimental choice, as he led the Czech Extraliga in scoring at age 40, and also recorded 13 points in 21 games internationally, his first time representing the land of his birth since 1996. I'll slide him into the #2 spot behind Eliáš, however, as no Extraliga player has won the award since Jiří Dopita in 2001.

So that settles it, Eliáš will definitely probably win.

Below are a list of the ten finalists, followed by past winners of the award:

Roman Červenka     C       Avangard Omsk (KHL)
Patrik Eliáš       C/LW    New Jersey Devils (NHL)
Martin Erat        L/RW    Nashville Predators (NHL)
Jaromír Jágr       RW      Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
Milan Michálek     L/RW    Ottawa Senators (NHL)
Petr Nedvěd        C       Bílí Tygři Liberec (ELH)
Ondřej Pavelec     G       Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
Tomáš Plekanec     C       Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
Jakub Voráček      RW      Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
Radim Vrbata       R/LW    Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)

Past Winners:

1969 - Jan Suchý
1970 - Jan Suchý
1971 - František Pospíšil
1972 - František Pospíšil
1973 - Vladimír Martinec
1974 - Jiří Holeček
1975 - Vladimír Martinec
1976 - Vladimír Martinec
1977 - Milan Nový
1978 - Ivan Hlinka
1979 - Vladimír Martinec
1980 - Peter Šťastný
1981 - Milan Nový
1982 - Milan Nový
1983 - Vincent Lukáč
1984 - Igor Liba
1985 - Jiří Králík
1986 - Vladimír Růžička
1987 - Dominik Hašek
1988 - Vladimír Růžička
1989 - Dominik Hašek
1990 - Dominik Hašek
1991 - Bedřich Ščerban
1992 - Róbert Švehla
1993 - Miloš Holaň
1994 - Roman Turek
1995 - Jaromír Jágr
1996 - Jaromír Jágr
1997 - Dominik Hašek
1998 - Dominik Hašek
1999 - Jaromír Jágr
2000 - Jaromír Jágr
2001 - Jiří Dopita
2002 - Jaromír Jágr
2003 - Milan Hejduk
2004 - Robert Lang
2005 - Jaromír Jágr
2006 - Jaromír Jágr
2007 - Jaromír Jágr
2008 - Jaromír Jágr
2009 - Patrik Eliáš
2010 - Tomáš Vokoun
2011 - Jaromír Jágr

Most Wins:

10 - Jaromír Jágr
5 - Dominik Hašek
4 - Vladimír Martinec
3 - Milan Nový

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nine Czechs chosen in KHL Draft

Nine Czech players were selected in the 2012 KHL Entry Draft, which took place on Saturday in Chelyabinsk. Not surprisingly, the majority of them were taken by the league's lone Czech team, Lev Praha.

Radek Faksa was the first Czech taken in the 2012 KHL Entry
Draft. Photo:
Two Czech centres were taken in the draft's first round, Radek Faksa of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers and Tomáš Hertl of Slavia Praha. Faksa was taken seventh overall by Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, while Hertl was taken 14th by Severstal Cherepovets. Both players are also projected to be first round selections in the NHL Entry Draft, which will take place in June, and the chances of either playing in the KHL within the next couple of years has to be considered slim. Faksa will probably either jump to the NHL or, more likely, remain in the Ontario Hockey League, while Hertl, who was recently named the Czech Extraliga's Rookie of the Year, will most likely return to Slavia.

Of the remaining seven players, five were chosen by Lev. Lev's first four choices were from Czech domestic clubs, three of which were from Prague teams. With their first-ever draft pick, they chose Tomáš Rachůnek, younger brother of Ivan and the late Karel, 31st overall. Considering both Tomáš and Ivan, who are ten years apart in age, play for Sparta Praha, who share Tipsport Arena with Lev, the chances of seeing the brothers in the KHL this season seem reasonable.

Roman Will of the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats was the only Czech goaltender chosen, 166th by Lev.

Below is a list of the players selected.

  7. Radek Faksa     C     Kitchener        Nizhnekamsk
 14. Tomáš Hertl     C     Slavia Praha     Cherepovets
 31. Tomáš Rachůnek  L/RW  Sparta Praha     Lev Praha
 69. Vojtěch Mozík   D     Mladá Boleslav   Lev Praha
105. Lukáš Žejdl     RW    Slavia Praha     Lev Praha
111. Jakub Orsava    R/LW  Třinec           Novosibirsk
132. Jan Košťálek    D     Sparta Praha     Lev Praha
155. Matěj Beran     C     P.E.I.           Ufa
166. Roman Will      G     Moncton          Lev Praha

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Where will Hašek end up?

"I haven't received any offers that interest me, so I've decided that I won't play hockey this year. But I'm by no means finished. If I see that my handsand legs are still capable, I think, why run away from it? I'll leave that open."

Could Hašek be headed back to Detroit?
When he said it a year ago, it raised some eyebrows. But now, Dominik Hašek is showing that he wasn't kidding, as he is saying that he intends to return to active playing in the 2012-13 season, at the age of 47.

"Nothing has changed from what I had in mind last year," he recently told Czech newspaper Sport upon return from an overseas trip in which he apparently talked to some NHL clubs. "But I haven't decided anything yet, so I'll wait and see. I'll probably make a decision in June."

It was assumed that, if Hašek did return, it would probably be to the KHL, where he posted a league-leading 7 shutouts in 2010-11, or the Czech Extraliga. The NHL seems a bit of a stretch. After all, in his last stint there, four years ago, Hašek was a backup with the Detroit Red Wings. However, the North American circuit seems to be what the Dominator is eyeing. European options don't seem to interest him.

"I have heard from a variety of clubs in Europe, and had many a phone call. I politely thanked them. I will not say who, why, how. I don't think it will happen. It's not what I want."

Regarding a return to the KHL, he said, "I don't know what's going on over there. Nothing against them, but I'm not interested."

With no disrespect to the goaltending legend, a starting job in the NHL at age 47 has to be almost totally out of the question. The question then becomes, what would be the best backup situation for him?

One of the possible destinations being mentioned is Detroit, where he has done three tours of duty already. Presumably, he'd be backing up Jimmy Howard in that scenario. Detroit already has a Czech goaltender in its system, Petr Mrázek, who is expected to battle for the team's backup job next year.

Mrázek, whose play at last year's World Junior Championship has many Czech fans hailing him as "the next Dominator", does not seem to view Hašek's possible presence as competition, however.

"If Dominik returned (to Detroit) it would help me a lot," said the 20-year-old netminder. "His experience is vast, so it would help me to watch him in training camp, in practice sessions, and in games. If I could learn from him, it would help my career. I don't know what the intentions of the club are, but I would not view it as competition, I would view it as help."

Another team being mentioned a lot is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The club's recent goaltending woes are almost as well-known as its general manager, Hall-of-Famer Steve Yzerman, who is a former teammate of Hašek.

"My philosophy is that I want to find a Hall-of-Fame-quality goalie," said Yzerman. "It's not easy, it takes time. But we want to get someone like that through the draft or through the free-agency market. So far, we don't have one."

Other teams that have been mentioned include the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks. Whether it's one of those clubs or someone else remains to be seen, but so far, Sport is even reporting that his wife doesn't know at this point.

All quotes are from

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prague & Bratislava to co-host Worlds?

The 2012 IIHF World Championships, the first of two in a row to be co-hosted by Stockholm and Helsinki, have just finished. Throughout the tournament, the pros and cons of two countries sharing the event have been weighed, and that will probably continue for some time. Among future possibilities now being discussed is one involving the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Once a single state, the Czechs and Slovaks seem to be a 
natural choice to co-host. Photo: Andre Ringuette, IIHF-HHOF.
As far as bi-national co-hosting situations go, none would seem more logical than a tournament held by the two states that used to be one country, specifically their respective capitals, Prague and Bratislava. After all, the two cities have co-hosted the event twice before, in 1959 and 1992, when they were both still part of Czechoslovakia.

IIHF President René Fasel, for one, thinks it could work. "The Czechs and Slovaks speak almost the same language and are very close to each other," he told Michael Langr of of "I think it's a good idea and a great opportunity."

The World Championship is scheduled to return to the Czech Republic in 2015. Prague will be the primary host and Ostrava, the city that co-hosted with Prague in 2004, is penciled in to do so again. Other options, such as Brno, Plzeň and Pardubice have also been mentioned, and now Bratislava. The sharing would be reciprocated the next time Slovakia is granted to host the event.

Some of the detractors of this type of situation point to the poor attendance this year in Stockholm, suggesting that interest would have been greater in a smaller Finnish city, such as Turku. Fasel disagrees.

"If we'd played this year in Helsinki and Turku, we would probably have had fewer fans than in Stockholm," he said confidently.

History indicates that Fasel is correct. The 30 games in Stockholm this year drew a total of 149,363 spectators for an average of 4979 per game. While that's below what was anticipated at the 13,850-seat Globe, it is still more than a secondary venue normally draws at the World Championships.

To begin with, these secondary venues are generally much smaller than the primary, usually seating somewhere between 5 and 10,000. The arenas are smaller because the cities themselves are. Besides a smaller population, a country's second-largest city usually has a lower average income as well, meaning that that smaller number of fans has less money to spend on tickets. Ticket prices may have to be reduced even further as the home team does not play in their venue, making it more difficult to create fan interest. These cities are generally less cosmopolitan, so there would not be as many local fans of any of the participating teams, and as tourist destinations they are usually not as attractive or easy to get to as the capitals, meaning fewer fans visiting from other countries.

In 2004, Ostrava did well as a co-host, helping the tournament draw a record 552,097 fans to 56 games, for an average of 9859. That record was expected to be broken this year in Helsinki and Stockholm, but wasn't, further fueling the argument that the tournament should stay in a single country. 

However, imagining Prague was to draw at the same level as it did in 2004, it is not hard to imagine that a group in Bratislava, which would include Team Slovakia, would draw more than Ostrava could. 

A criticism some have about Helsinki and Stockholm co-hosting is the distance between the cities. In particular, it takes two ferries to get from one to the other, and can take over 10 hours. However, Prague and Bratislava are separated by only 330 km of highway, which can be driven in a little over three hours, and there are numerous direct trains and buses per day. That is an easier connection than in many single-nation tournaments. Quebec City and Halifax, the Canadian cities that co-hosted the 2008 tournament, are 1000 km apart by road, and public transportation options in North America are notoriously bad. Russia's two host cities in 2016 are Moscow and St. Petersburg, are almost as distant, separated by over 700 km.

Prague is actually slightly closer to Bratislava than to Ostrava; the two Czech cities are separated by 375 km of highway.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia are not the only countries that wish to co-host the World Championships: a joint bid by France and Germany have been submitted for the 2017 event. One thing is for sure: at least one future tournament will be held in two nations. Next year's tournament will again be held in Stockholm and Helsinki, this time with the Swedish capital hosting the semifinals and finals. 

"(This year's) tournament had its pros and cons," said Fasel. "In the summer, we will think about what can be done to improve it."

If things go better, and most expect it will, perhaps the idea of two countries co-hosting the World Championship will have fewer detractors, and the door to a Czech-Slovak reunion (for a couple of weeks, at least) will be open.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The biggest Czech goal of all time?

So far, fans think Karel Rachůnek's
goal from 2010 is most worthy of
celebrating. Photo: Francis Larrede.
For those who have been following Česká Televize's coverage of the IIHF World Championships, you are probably already familiar with the Nejslavnější gól (Most Celebrated Goal) campaign, in which a selection of the top ten goals in Czech and Czechoslovak international hockey history are profiled throughout the tournament, with fans able to vote for the winner on the internet.

The selection is obviously limited to those in the television age, otherwise it would surely include Augustin Bubnik's game-winner in the last game of the 1949 World Championship, which gave Czechoslovakia its first-ever win over Canada and second gold medal.

All of the goals can be watched and voted on at . Below is a summary of all ten finalists. As is done on the website, they are presented chonologically:

Miroslav Vlach (1959, ČSR - Canada)

Heading into the very last game of the tournament, in Prague, Canada had effectively sewn up the gold medal, as only a defeat of five goals or more could unseat them. The host Czechoslovaks, however, needed a two-goal victory to reach the bronze medal. Late in the third period, with the home team ahead 4-3, Canada pulled its goalie to go for the tie. Vlach scored from centre ice into the empty net to give his team the two-goal margin it needed to earn a medal on home ice.

Though it was only an empty-netter to achieve a bronze, it likely makes the top ten due to the first-hand memory of many fans in attendance, as well as the fact that it was the first World Championship to be televised in Czechoslovakia. 

Josef Černý (1969 World Championship, ČSSR - USSR)

Seven months after the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, the national hockey teams of the two nations faced each other at the World Championship in Stockholm. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Černý, a defenceman, led a brilliant individual rush from his own side of centre in which he made a nice move to beat a Soviet defenceman and then backhanded the puck past goaltender Viktor Zinger. The Czechoslovaks won the game 2-0, then beat the Soviets again by a 4-3 score seven days later.

In the end, the Soviet Union, Sweden and Czechoslovakia finished tied in points. The Soviets ended up with the gold and the Czechoslovaks the silver, but it was the first time that any country had defeated the Soviet Union twice in a single tournament.

Jaroslav Holík (1972 World Championship, ČSSR - USSR)

With two games for each team left, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union faced off at Prague's Sportovní hala tied in points. The Czechoslovaks fell behind 2-1 early in the second period but came back to tie it, then Holík beat Vladislav Tretiak with a wrist shot from the high slot for the eventual game-winner.

Two days later, an easy 8-2 win over Finland clinched Czechoslovakia's first gold medal since 1949.

Milan Nový (1976 Canada Cup, ČSSR - Canada)

Despite being World Champions, the players on the Czechoslovakian national team were virtually unknown in North America when the arrived to compete against NHL players and the top national teams of Europe in the Canada Cup. Late in the round-robin stage, the tournament's last two unbeaten teams, Czechoslovakia and Canada, met at the famous Montreal Forum. The goaltending duel between Vladimír Dzurilla and Rogatien Vachon was finally solved with less than five minutes remaining, when Nový scored the game's only goal.

The two teams would meet again in the tournament final and this time Canada prevailed, but not before the Czechoslovakian players made themselves known to Canadian hockey fans.

Bohuslav Ebermann (1977 World Championship, ČSSR - Sweden)

In their second-last game of the 1977 tournament, the defending champions from Czechoslovakia were tied 1-1 with Sweden late in the third period. Ebermann beat at Swedish defenceman to the outside and then cut in to score the go-ahead goal, putting them in the driver's seat to repeat as gold medalists.

Two days later, they could have clinched gold with a win over Canada, but lost 8-2. That meant that they needed Sweden to beat the Soviet Union in the last game to retain first place, which they did.

Jiří Šejba (1985 World Championship, ČSSR - Canada)

In 1985, Prague was once again the host of the World Championships. On the last day, Czechoslovakia faced Canada with the gold medal on the line. Midway through the second period, the host team led 2-1, with Šejba scoring twice. Canada was on the power play, however, and pressing for the equalizer.

Shorthanded, Šejba picked up the puck at his own blueline and raced down the ice, dodged a diving Canadian defenceman and then eluded a poke-check attempt by the goalie to complete his hat trick. Czechoslovakia went on to win 5-3 and capture the gold medal.

Martin Procházka (1996 World Championship, ČR - Canada)

In their first gold medal game since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic faced Canada for the gold medal in Vienna. Tied 4-4 late in the game's final minute, the Czechs skated into the Canadian zone, where Procházka took a pass from Pavel Patera and beat goalie Curtis Joseph to the glove side.

An empty-net goal in the dying seconds gave the Czech Republic a 6-4 win and the gold medal.

Petr Svoboda (1998 Winter Olympics, ČR - Russia)

In the long hockey history of Czech hockey, the nation had never won an Olympic gold medal, although twice they were beaten out of one by the Soviet Union in the final game. In Nagano in 1998, they faced Russia in the final. Still scoreless almost midway throug the third period, a faceoff win in the attacking zone by Patera was worked back to Svoboda, who had time to tee up a big slapper and beat Andrei Trefilov for the game's only goal.

Need anything be said about the aftermath of this? Though it was early morning in the Czech Republic, fans across the country erupted in celebration, and the team itself arrived that evening to celebrate what is probably the defining moment in the nation's sporting history.

David Moravec (2001 World Championship, ČR - Finland)

The Czech Republic was two-time defending champions at the 2001 World Championship in Germany, and found themselves in the gold medal game, looking for a third. Tied 3-3, the game against Finland went to overtime, and after almost 11 minutes of extra time, Moravec's backhander from in close found the back of the net, giving the Czechs their "golden hat trick".

Karel Rachůnek (2010 World Championship, ČR - Sweden)

After a shootout win in the quarterfinals against Finland, the Czech Republic faced Sweden in the semifinals at the 2010 worlds in Cologne, Germany. In the dying seconds of the third period, trailing 2-1, the puck came out from behind the net and Rachůnek one-timed it toward the goal and it went in with only eight seconds on the clock.

The Czechs ultimately won the game in a shootout and, the next day, they won the gold medal with a 2-1 victory over Russia.

The fan vote is anything but dramatic, with Rachůnek's goal the runaway winner, currently carrying 74 percent of the vote. The popularity of this goal is doubtlessly buoyed by the untimely demise of the popular defenceman in the tragic Lokomotiv Yaroslavl airline disaster last September, as well as the fact that is is the most recent goal on the list, and therefore freshest in the minds of most fans.

In a distant second place is Svoboda's goal from 1998, with 13%.