January 11, 2010

Hopes Not So High In Czech Republic

In my continuing series of previewing the various Olympic teams, Libor Toman offers us the Czech perspective on the 2010 Olympics. Toman is the editor-in-chief for NHLpro.cz, and specializes in covering the Czech Elite League.

While previously we learned neighboring Slovakia has high hopes for Vancouver, but that sentiment does not apply for the Czechs.

"Generally many Czech think that we will be humiliated at the Olympics. Thats the common idea," says Toman.

He went on to talk about the challenges Czech hockey will be facing in the near future.

"Our hockey is in a big crisis, the golden era is done. Players who were born in the 1970s are retiring and young ones are not so good. I seems to me that kids are starting to prefer floorball which is the most growing sport in our country.

"If we are talking about problems in ice hockey we are usually talking about lack of money. Sazka which is bet company owned by state has to pay big money to maintain our biggest arena called Sazka Arena and we don't have the funds for financing youth hockey. Bad system, Swedish is much more better, as you may know in a last few years they have very succesful school system which is very useful for the young players. Too much protectionism here, which is not unusual in our post-communist society. "

I asked Toman to comment on the non-NHL talent on the Czech Olympic team, so us North Americans have a proper introduction to these mysterious names. There are only four names most of us do not know much about: Jakub Stepanek, Miroslav Blatak, Roman Cervenka, and Tomas Rolinek.

"Here is what our columnist Milan Zlinsky wrote about our squad: 'It can be surprise that coach Ruzicka will take defenseman Miroslav Blatak, forward J. Vasicek or Tomas Rolinek. Few guys from NHL are missing, especially Vinnie Prospal, which is totally shocking. Ruzicka replied for that: "We wanted to take eight defencemen, so there wasnt place for Prospal."

Zlinksy later added: "There was no doubt, that Roman Polak will come,' Ruzicka said. Only defensemen from Europe is Blatak. 'He played very well at the tournament at Moskow,' Ruzicka said."

Toman himself chimes in on Cervenka and Stepanek.

On Cervenka: "He's a HC Slavia Praha best player and most productive player in our league. 24 year old stud is a sniper and people are following him because he can break CEL record. "I would like to use young line Fleischmann-Krejci-Cervenka," Ruzicka said. He was also little bit injured (back spasms) but nothing serious."

On Stepanek: "Jakub Stepanek is HC Vitkovice goalie. Ruzicka said that he won personal battle with Marek Schwarz (you may know him from St. Louis). Stepanek is a talented goalie, but he will be No. 3 at the Olympics. No. 1 is Vokoun."


JJ said...

I don´t think that hopes of hockey people in CR are so low as for 2010 Olympics. The common opinion seems to be that this is our last chance to reach some success in years to come.

Julia said...

Michael Russo, covering Minnesota Wild, reports: “Nobody’s expecting anything from us. I think it’s good. No pressure,” Havlat told me last month in a Hockey News Olympics magazine feature I wrote that will be on newsstands soon. “I think we can only surprise. Nobody expected us to win in ’98, and as [Dominik] Hasek showed, if you’ve got a hot goalie, you can win whatever you want.. http://www.startribune.com/blogs/80339927.html?elr=KArks47cQiU47cQiU47cQUzyaP37D_MDua_eyD5PcOiU

Mr. Lizard said...

Strange article, dear Joe. :)

First, If I were you, I'd ask Jiri Lacina (www.nhl.cz) or some of his contacts actually tracing the Czech scene like 10, 20 years. Libor Toman is rather a beginner with no-so-deep insight.

This whole floorball thing sounds like BS to me. There's only 10 mil Czechs with only #2 place for the hockey (#1 - soccer without a doubt), mostly recovering from the big regime changes. In Czech capitalism, being a young hockey players costs quite a crazy many, unlike the young soccer player (you can see it clearly in every Czech village). Globally, we're facing a virtual age arrival.

Average Czech thinks that we should be winning all golds just because, hey, we're Czechs! But lets face the fact that 10-mil-country, two times smaller than most of Canada's provinces, going through a big changes simply can't keep the golden ambitions for ever. All that Naganos, WCs, Haseks and Jagrs spoiled us pretty well.

Average Czech fan is such a cynic, or giber. Average Slovak fan is a patriot, hungry for their own Nagano. Just like the Czech fan in, lets say, 1998.

Bad results of Czech juniors are taken in here as a big disaster. Press went nuts, numerous hockey legends are keeping the fire big with saying a big-mouthed declarations for the press, and so. But where on earth is that promised disaster? IIRC, Team Canada won CC 1987 with almost no 57-59 born players in the roster, but there was 5 of 6 first line stars (Fuhr, Cof, Bourque, Gretz, Mess) between 60-62. So, good years, bad years, it's a swing thing.

In the shadow of this, it's kind of forgotten that we were expecting so many new Jagrs in still young, but slowly aging players like Havlat, Hudler, Hemsky, or even Prucha. Mostly they're pretty good, but no Art Ross Trophy winners, as we used to have in Jags.

Still, I'm not convinced the Czechs are about to burn out in Vancouver. Okay, we do have problems, but who on earth don't? Also, don't ever forget Europeans play far better altogether than separated. I think no Canadian is gonna get it clearly until the best Canadians are spread all over the Europe and playing together just in the Olympics.

Sorry for such a long comment and maybe grammar (fast write).