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%.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kovář saving Czechs in goal

After winning the Euro Hockey Tour last weekend, competing in Brno against Europe's best hockey nations with nearly-complete rosters, many were optimistic about the Czech Republic's medal chances at this year's World Championship. Indeed, many still are.

Jakub Kovář makes a save in the shootout vs Norway.
If there was an area of concern on this Czech team, it was in goal. Accustomed to getting strong performances from the likes of Dominik Hašek, Tomáš Vokoun and, last year, Ondřej Pavelec, they entered this tournament without an NHL netminder, meaning the duties are being split by Jakub Štěpánek, who has a somewhat spotty international record, and Jakub Kovář, who has performed brilliantly in the past two Czech Extraliga campaigns, but had never before played in a top-level international event.

So far, Kovář has played in two of the Czechs' three games, against Denmark and Norway. And while it may not be surprising to many people that he performed brilliantly, the fact that he had to might, against two opponents that are perceived to be weaker.

On Friday, Kovář opened the tournament with a 2-0 win, and while a shutout against Denmark is not something that's going to make many people stand up and notice, anyone who watched it saw Kovář keep his team in it while it was still scoreless in the second period, particularly during a stretch where they had to kill off three straight penalties. If not for his brilliant play at that point in the game, in which his team was out-shot 26-24, it is easily conceivable that the Czechs would not have taken the full three points.

In Kovář's next game, on Monday against Norway, they didn't take the full three points; only two. However, despite the fact that is was another game against an opponent that the Czechs have a clear advantage in talent and are expected to outplay, it was the play of Kovář that got the game to overtime. Then, in the shootout, he stopped all three shots he faced, to make sure his team salvaged at least something from its dismal performance.

According to Kovář himself, though, part of the issue is that these teams are not as weak as people think.

"For us it was another difficult game. Everybody thinks that the Norwegians are weak, but they showed against us that they're stronger than that."

Of course, in between the two games, the Czechs were badly outplayed by Sweden and lost 4-1 with Štěpánek in net. Now with two days off, the Czechs return to action with back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday against Latvia and Italy, two more so-called weaker teams. Kovář will start Thursday and, presumably, Štěpánek will on Friday. Who starts against Russia on Sunday and Germany on Tuesday will surely depend on those performances.

"I did not expect we would alternate in goal, I did not expect it," said Kovář, who seems to be the only one not impressed with his play. "I thought that I would play once, maybe twice in the tournament. On Thursday will be my fourth." 

As for sharing the load, neither goalie apparently has a problem with it. "I don't have a problem with it, and Kuba (Štěpánek) doesn't either. We talk to each other about it, and one cheers the other on."

Latvia, who has beaten Germany already and currently sits in third place in Group S, one spot ahead of the Czechs, will be no pushover. Though the Czechs are confident that they will get good goaltending in the game, they are also hoping that they will play better in front. To that end, they have shuffled the lines around a bit.

NHL reinforcements might help, too, but they won't arrive by Thursday, and they won't be as numerous as originally hoped. Despite three Czechs on the recently-eliminated Philadelphia Flyers, only one, Jakub Voráček, might join the team, but he's still a question mark. Jaromír Jágr and Pavel Kubina have both declined.

"We spoke on Wednesday," said coach Alois Hadamczik. "Voráček has been having problems with his shoulder, so on Wednesday he had to undergo a medical examination. Then we'll see."

Martin Erat of the Nashville Predators is scheduled to arrive in Stockholm on Friday morning, but whether he plays that day has still not been determined.

All quotations are courtesy and

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"We need to get better," says Krejčí

The Czech Republic is off to a 1-1 start at the World Championships, starting with a less-than-impressive 2-0 win over Denmark, followed by a 4-1 loss to the host Swedes. After the second game,'s David Schlegel asked David Krejčí of the Boston Bruins to evaluate his team's performance so far and the outlook for the rest of the tournament.

What do you think about your team's performance against Sweden?

I think we played a better game than against Denmark. Now we still have plenty of games before the quarterfinals. We need to get better and better.

The first half of the game against Sweden was very bad, then you improved. Why did it take so long?
We had some chances and managed to score. That woke us up, but we were unable to turn the game around.

What was the game plan? Did you want to play more defensively?

We wanted to play well on defence and to play our game. However, we allowed the first goal very early and that changed our game. I still think it was not that bad. We are still finding each other on ice; we need more games to play together. We definitely played better than against the Danes. We have a strong team and we will keep improving.

How about the power play? It has been miserable so far.

Yes, it is not perfect. We need to shoot a lot more and play smarter. When you can shoot without being blocked, you have to try it. So far, we have had one good power play. However, I felt we played them better than against the Danes.

What do you think about the big ice rink? Is it suitable for you?

There is much more space here. At the beginning, I received the pass and looked around wondering what I was going to do with the puck. We have much more time. In the upcoming games, I will try to be more creative and hold onto the puck more before passing.

The Swedes showed that they are one of the best teams in the tournament. Do you agree?

Yes, I think so. They have a lot of stars from the NHL, but we still were able to create some chances. They were luckier as well. We need to stay positive, because it was not that bad. We did not score many goals, but I hope the luck will come to us in another game.

In the first game against the Danes, your winger was Aleš Hemský; against Sweden, it was changed to Petr Průcha. What do you think about this change?

Yes, it was a big change, as both play a very different kind of hockey. Průcha is a technically skilled player, and we had some chances against Sweden. Pruchic (Průcha) had two nice shots, but no goals.

Will you discuss with left winger Milan Michálek about what to improve?

We also will sit down with our defencemen and have a talk. We need to skate better, mainly me. We want to win the whole thing. It is not usual to win the tournament without a loss.

The stands were quite empty against Denmark: about one thousand fans. Was it a shock for you?

It was very weird. So few people, big ice rink. We came to play here and the arena and city is still not ready for the championship. The organizers have to get things ready. On Saturday more people came. Yes, they supported the Swedes, but the atmosphere was good. And the hockey as well.

Do you think more people will come also to the game against Norway?

I think we expect that the attendance will be low again. We will be ready for it this time.

Are you ready to win the gold medal? You played a long playoff series against Washington.

I've played a lot of games this season, but here it is little bit different hockey. Physically, I feel well and I hope that we will be successful. is providing full coverage of the 2012 IIHF World Championship, live on location from Helsinki and Stockholm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nedvěd is Extraliga MVP, Hertl top rookie

Petr Polák and Derek O'Brien

Forty-year-old forward Petr Nedvěd took home two awards from Tuesday's gala in Prague, making him the second-oldest to win the Player-of-the-Year award in the Czech Republic.

Only one player older than the Liberec forward has ever won the award. In 2010, Pardubice goaltender Dominik Hašek did it when he was 45. In addition to the MVP, Nedvěd was officially recognized as the league's leading scorer of the regular season for his 61 points in 49 games.

"It's a kind of satisfaction to me," said Nedvěd, currently preparing with the Team Czech Republic for his first World Championship.

In addition to Nedvěd, another notable winner was Slavia Praha's Tomáš Hertl, who won the league's rookie of the year award. The 18-year-old, who led all junior-aged players in the Extraliga with 25 points in 38 games, is projected to be a first-round pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft.

Below is a full list of winners at Tuesday's gala:

Player of the YearPetr NedvědLiberec
Václav Pecina AwardPetr KoukalPardubice
Top Goal ScorerPetr Kumstát (27)Karlovy Vary
Top Point ScorerPetr Nedvěd (61)Liberec
Rookie of the YearTomáš HertlSlavia Praha
Best GoaltenderJiří TrvajKometa Brno
Best DefencemanJan KolářPardubice
Most Gentlemanly PlayerViktor UjčíkVítkovice
Golden Helmet ** Jiří BurgerVítkovice
BPA Award ***Tomáš PöpperleSparta Praha
Coach of the YearZdeněk VeneraKometa Brno
Best RefereeVladimír Šindler
Extraliga Champions-Pardubice
President's Trophy-Sparta Praha
1. Liga champion-Chomutov