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."