The 2001/02 Czech Extraleague hockey season is over.
Date: july 2002
Language correction: Jes Golbez Ursulak
Before the season
started, many people forecasted a simple victory for Sparta Praha, and
they were correct. Sparta, with by far the biggest budget, won the regular
season convincingly, and did not get into much trouble in the playoffs. In
their pursuit for title, they beat Ocelari Trinec (Trinec Steelers),
Slavia Prague and HC Vitkovice. The Czech playoffs quarterfinals were
played in a best-of-seven system, and the semis and finals were
best-of-five series this season. Sparta only lost twice to Trinec, once to
HC Vitkovice and won 10 out of 13 playoff games overall. In seven
semi-final and final games, there were just nine goals scored against
them! Last year‘s champion, HC Vsetin, had grave financial troubles, and
for much of the season, they were unsure if they would even be able to
continue playing hockey in the top level. HC Vsetin had its‘ best players
leave the club, and this made the way open for Sparta to succeed them as
champions. Sparta, who reportedly has almost a twice-greater budget that
any other Czech club, bought the best players (many from HC Vsetin), and
the team, under experienced coach Vaclav Sykora, did not allow any
complications. Veteran Petr Briza proved again that he is the best goalie
in the Czech Extraliga. He ended his national team career and is not
ambitious to leave for the NHL, which is perfect for Sparta. Sparta had
three defensive formations of equal strength. For example, Martin Richter
played in the 3rd pairing, earned no goals or assists for Sparta during
the season, but still made it onto the Czech national team roster for
World Championships. On offense, the formation that got responsibility for
the result could be always found. When Jaroslav Hlinka`s line, with
wingers Zemlicka and Zelenka, (who joined Sparta after unsuccessful
attempt in Finland) could not score, there was the powerful second unit of
Kratena-Bros-Chabada ready to score. The third unit also played well. The
only big disappointment was Radek Belohlav, who left for Lada Togliatti
after the season. Sparta did not meet any crises during the season,
although just before the regular season ended, they lost four games in a
row. Despite this, the team came into playoffs in a very good shape.
Sparta beat HC Vitkovice in the finals. HC Vitkovice played relegation
games just two seasons ago, but a year later they won a bronze medal. The
improvement was made in hands of the "Champion of Strategy" Alois
Hadamczik, who is also an owner of the soccer club Banik Ostrava
(Vitkovice is a part of Ostrava and also a name of a steel company who
supports the club the most). Hadamczik was also a hot candidate for the
national team coach after Josef Augusta was called off, but he lost 5:6 in
voting by the Executive Committee of the Czech Ice Hockey Association. He
chose to have a year off, so he will not continue to coach HC Vitkovice
next season. After Martin Prusek moved overseas (and became the AHL’s best
goalie during the 2001/02 season), Jiri Trvaj jumped on in his place.
Trvaj was very good, and was also noticed by the national team coaches.
There was no superstar in the defence, just mostly young players who
always show big heart, many of whom would deserve to get their chance on
the Euro Hockey Tour, e.g. world junior champion 2001 Jan Vytisk (quite
unfathomable that he is still undrafted!!!). The only experienced
defenseman, Radim Tesarik, was injured most of the season. The offense had
to accept the loss of Martin Prochazka, who joined his "HC Kladno twin"
Pavel Patera in Omsk. Fortunately, David Moravec, Olympic champion from
Nagano, once again found his form. The Padelek brothers, Ivan Padelek and
Ales Padelek and Marek Melenovsky had their best seasons, and two players
who came to the team during the season also added a big boost - Leos
Cermak who came on loan from Slavia (and played 1.CP liga in Trebic two
years ago!) and Jiri Burger, who did not receive the money he deserved
from starving HC Vsetin. HC Vitkovice ended up fifth after the regular
season, but beat Keramika Plzen and Continental Zlin in the playoffs. The
series against Plzen was a "war on ice". Plzen star Radek Duda cried into
the microphone right after one game: "We will show these Poles and the
babbling Hadamczik!" The enfant terrible of Czech hockey could not keep
his emotions down, and he made the long time rivalry between Plzen and
Vitkovice even bigger. Alois Hadamczik is one of the most disliked people
among Plzen fans, and Ostrava (=Vitkovice) is close to the Polish borders.
This quarterfinals series was very hot, and the whole country watched the
spicy events (HC Vitkovice chief Frantisek Cernik, second man of the Czech
hockey poked his head into Plzen`s V.I.P. suite, to which Plzen assistant
coach Radek Kampf shockingly cried about a so-called injustice against
Plzen on TV. Vitkovice assistant coach Mojmir Trlicik tried to get in the
referee box during the intermission, etc.) HC Vitkovice beat Plzen 4-2 in
the series, and were able to beat Zlin in 5 games. In the finals, HC
Vitkovice won the first game against Sparta, but could not win their first
hockey title in 21 years.
HC Continental Zlin ended up in second place after the regular season.
They won the bronze medal, but had a chance to win more. In the
quarterfinals, Zlin was down 1:3 against Znojmo Orli, and managed to win
the series in the overtime of the deciding 7th game! This series was
played in a very gentlemanly manner in comparison to HC Vitkovice-Plzen or
Slavia Prague-Pardubice. In the semi-finals against Vitkovice, Zlin won
only once despite the fact that Cajánek, Leska, Balastik, Pivko, Somik and
Marusak were among the best scoring players in the Extraliga. Zlin could
not agree on a new contract with a goalie Vladimir Hudacek and traded him
to Ceske Budejovice for Michal Marik (now playing in Havirov). Zlin has
had a good defence for years, and a very good first two forward lines.
Petr Leska, a skilled and subtle technical player, came almost out of
nowhere to win the productivity award for the regular season... However,
Zlin may have problems next season. It got a new mighty sponsor (Hame
instead of Continental), but Petr Cajánek is heading for the St. Louis
Blues, Radovan Somik for the Philadelphia Flyers, and Petr Leska for
Slavia Praha lost to cross-town rival Sparta in the semi-finals, and the
team of Vladimir Ruzicka equalled the best result in Slavia‘s history.
Ruzicka builds the team with players who are good types for play-offs, and
with newcomers Frantisek Kucera, David Hruska and Marek Posmyk, may take
another step next season. Slavia players are tough, patient and can avoid
bad mistakes. In the play-offs, they met the second wealthiest team in HC
IPB Pojistovna Pardubice and showed a great performance. This was another
series with big emotions, which was influenced by a situation from an
early game on Slavia ice, when Pardubice scored a disputable equalizer a
few seconds before the end of regulation time. The question was if the
puck got over the goal line, and could any of the cameras could prove
it... Pardubice players and management were not happy about this, and
could not stop talking about this situation until the series ended. Slavia
won the series 4:2. In the semi-final series against Sparta, Slavia had
very few chances. Slavia scored only three goals and lost 0:3. A good
performance was turned in by goalie Roman Malek. Defensive left-winger
Milan Antos had an incredible season offensively, and sharpshooter Viktor
Ujcik scored plenty of goals. A newcomer from the Pittsburgh Penguins,
Josef Beranek, started fantastically, but later broke his leg and did not
find his former form again - not even in the playoffs. Another example of
this was Daniel Branda, who started well, but was invisible during the
Pardubice had big hopes and dreams this spring. They opened a new arena,
organised a very good WJC, and the team played very well. HC IPB
Pojistovna Pardubice had a good regular season, led by experienced players
like "Mr. Jokerit" Otakar Janecky (41 years old!), paceful East Bohemianer
Ladislav Lubina, world champion Michal Sykora, and a good middle
generation - the technical Tomas Blazek, fast Petr Sykora (younger brother
of Michal Sykora) and shooter Jaroslav Kudrna. When two-time world
champion Dusan Salficky came back from Bridgeport, Dominik Hasek`s city
had two star goalies – Salficky and rising star Adam Svoboda. Pardubice,
however, could not equalize the aggressive play from Slavia and their
season ended in the quarterfinals. Most of the players will receive a new
chance in Pardubice for next season, including Ota Janecky and Ladislav
Lubina. Only the coaches were fired. New coach is a former Pardubice coach
in Milos Riha, who won the Slovakian Extraliga last season with underdog
Slovan Bratislava. The coaches were probably not solely responsible for
their result. According to many experts, Pardubice has too many technical
players, and no tough fighters.
A very bad start, a good comeback, but sadness in the end - that was HC
Keramika Plzen in the 2001/02 season. Goalie Dusan Salficky moved
overseas, and his substitute, Slovak goalie Miroslav Simonovic from
Poprad, did not start very well. After the 11th round, Plzen was in the
last spot with a poor five points, and with the most goals scored against.
Plzen management bought a substitute goalie in Pardubice’s Libor Barta,
exchanged their coaching staff, and Keramika started moving up. A very
important development was exchanging the third line for the first line. A
new leading line of Michal Dvorak - Josef Straka - Dusan Andrasovsky
substituted for Michal Straka`s line (a new player of CSKA Moscow, Michal
Straka is a brother of Pittsburgh Penguin Martin Straka. Josef Straka is
unrelated). This young generation line played very well with older
players, such as defenseman Josef Reznicek and Ivan Vlcek. Plzen started
the quarterfinals against Vitkovice very well, but some important players
were injured, and Keramika, playing exhausting physical hockey, did not
have enough strength to win the series.
The most important thing for Znojmo was the signing a new contract with a
big sponsor - Jihomoravska Energetika. The club changed its name from HC
Excalibur Znojemsti Orli to HC JME Znojemsti Orli, but remained the
"Znojmo Eagles". Znojmo is a really new hockey city on the Czech map, and
their great audience proved it. The club relies on the relatively unknown,
but honest and devoted players. Eagles have two unbeatable stars on their
team - Slovak world champion duo Peter Pucher and Marek Uram. The third
cornerstone is goalie Oldrich Svoboda. The Slovaks were not very satisfied
with the way they were treated during the Olympic break by the Slovak
national team management, but came right back to the Czech Extraliga.
During the second part of the season, they showed some brilliant
performances. Zlin, but in the 7th game, Zlin came back to win by an
overtime goal from league top-scorer Petr Leska.
HC Ocelari Trinec had an awful second half of the season. There were
rumours about financial problems on the team, and the team did not play
well collectively. This ambitious team was happy that it managed to make
the playoffs in the 8th and final spot. Talented goalie Vlastimil Lakosil,
who has not yet realized his potential, and has just remained a prospect,
along with his substitute Martin Vojtek (who broke the Extraliga record by
keeping a shutout in the three consecutive games) was not very consistent.
Head Coach Antonin Stavjana, creator of Zlin`s good defense and top
defenseman of past years (Also a world champion from Prague 1985), failed
to make the players responsible in the defensive end. In addition, the
offensive part of Trinec were down against Sparta 0:3, but came back to
make it 2:3, and led almost the whole 6th game. In the end, however,
Sparta`s power prevailed.
HC Vsetin did not make it to the playoffs for the first time in their
Extraliga existence, but there was not any disappointment among the fans
at all. The fans were mostly very satisfied. All the stars left the club,
but the fruits of building the junior team squad from the best players
around Moravia came to bear. Young stars like Jiri Hudler, Radim
Kucharczyk, Petr Kubos, Ondrej Nemec and Tomas Demel joined the few
veterans like Rostislav Vlach and Radovan Biegl to create a good
atmosphere, even with the club’s permanent lack of money. HC Vsetin tried
to make the playoffs until the end of the 3rd quarter of the regular
season. 9th place is a direct consequence of the departures of players
such as Martin Strbak, Lubomir Vaic and Jiri Burger, all of who left the
club during the season. All of them fought with all of their strength, in
spite of the fact they played almost for free.
HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary also did not have money to waste. The club
changed its main sponsor during this summer, so its future became clear at
least for the upcoming season. Its new name will be HC Energie Karlovy
Vary (the name of new main sponsor is Sokolovska uhelna, a.s.). Karlovy
Vary had very young team with only one big name - goalie Petr Franek
(third-string goalie for the Czechs at the World Championships in Vienna -
1996), and was expected to play in the relegation round by most experts.
The team, however, led by experienced duo Marek Sykora and Radim Rulik,
had a good atmosphere within the club. Every player worked very hard, and
it showed up in the best result in Karlovy Vary Extraliga history - 10th
HC Ceske Budejovice had to overcome big losses before the season. Among
others, Radek Martinek went to the New York Islanders, Vaclav Nedorost
moved to the Colorado Avalanche, Filip Turek went to Swedish club AIK
Stockholm, and Sparta Prague. This resulted in an exchange of General
Managers, and the building of a new hockey team. Minnesota Wild gave a big
gift to Ceske Budejovice due to the fact that the Wild did not give much
of a chance to Slovak Peter Bartos, who chose to come to his new home in
Southern Bohemia. The team also had to overcome playing in a rebuilding
arena, where only minimum audience could attend. The main goal for the new
team was not to play relegation games, and after a coach exchange (former
Plzen coach Jaroslav Liska for Jaroslav Jagr, who is unrelated with
Jaromir Jagr) the goal was easily fulfilled. The team has a good
perspective – acquiring new goalie Vladimir Hudacek for inconsistent
Michal Marik, while big futures are expected from Michal Barinka, Jiri
Novotny and many other juniors who belong to the best program in the
country. There is always the threat of them leaving for overseas, however.
HC Havirov Panthers is probably the least popular Extraliga club, and many
opponents wished that Havirov would play in the relegation round. Their
non-transparent management has a bad reputation, but at the start of the
2001/02 season, it looked like they were trying to change that. Once
again, however, the season ended up again the same way as many others –
The club owing money to their players. At the beginning of the season, the
team acquired a new coach, Frantisek Vyborny, as well as players Petr
Vala, Lubomir Korhon, Vaclav Eiselt, and later David Hruska, all of whom
lifted the quality and results of the team a great deal. In the end, these
moves resulted in only the 12th spot, and none of these players will
continue in Havirov. Vyborny also broke his two-year contract and moved to
Litvinov. Most of Havirov‘s players left the club, and now the squad seems
to be very weak heading into next season.
HC Chemopetrol Litvinov fans feared the worst for their team this season. Last year`s
quarter finalist fought until the last round to avoid the relegation
games. In the crucial game, they played an away game against their direct
relegation-bound opponents in HC Kladno, needing at least a tie. HC Kladno
led for almost for the whole game, but Vlastimil Kroupa equalized the game
about 10 minutes to go. Litvinov’s jersey was worn by an incredible amount
(46-) of players this season, the most out of all Extraliga clubs. The
only player who played consistently was captain and NHL veteran Petr
Klima, who dressed up in a hockey jersey after he had been selling cars
for the past two years in Florida. New General Manager Vladimir Macholda
was usually held responsible for his team’s problems.
Tragedy was waiting for another team - HC Vagnerplast Kladno. Jaromir
Jagr’s home team, who fought many years to save their elite league lives,
bought several new good players before the season, and according to the
words from management, was ready to reach the playoffs. Unfortunately,
their start was disastrous, and at the beginning of December, Kladno was
desperately last. Jaromir Sindel substituted for Coach HC Kladno won 26
points during their last 18 games. For a while, they even overtook HC
Litvinov in the standings. Sadly, they lost their last, most important
game. During the relegation games, Jaromir Sindel did not motivate the
team well, and HC Kladno underestimated HC Liberec, losing 1:4 in the
series. With this loss, the funeral for a very successful team in
Czechoslovakian history became a reality.
Czech Extraliga after 18th Round
Czech Extraliga is very demanding competition in the Czech
Republic. Despite lower attendance than previous season and fantastic
performance of Sparta Prague in Champions League in soccer, ice hockey
remains most popular in the country.
The top candidate for the title is last year`s runner-up Sparta
Prague. Sparta Prague has an outstanding goalie in Petr Briza, acquired
Jan Srdinko and world champion Jan Tomajko from Vsetin and what is more
two top stars joined the team during October. Olympic and World Champion
Frantisek Kucera refused to play on the Washington Capitals` farm team and
came back home. Jiri Zelenka was fired despite fair performance for Blues
Espoo and signed a two-year deal.
However, Sparta is still at the third place in the Extraleague
table. First spot belongs to HC IPB Pojistovna Pardubice. Its 40 year-old
captain Otakar Janecky was suspended for few games because he offended the
referee, but his fantastic passes to Petr Sykora keep Pardubice winning,
fanatstic shooting form has another veteran, Ladislav Lubina and Pardubice
goalie Adam Svoboda earn his national team spot for the first time in his
Inspite the fact respected coach Antonin Stavjana, the world champion from
1985, left Zlin, the well-known defence stayed there. Marek Posmyk could
not get to the Tampa Bay roster for a longer time so he came back to
Moravia and together with Martin Hamrlik (a brother of New York Islanders
star Roman Hamrlik) leads Zlin defense. However, the main reason of the
second place for Zlin is somewhere else. 26-year-old Petr Leska and his
second line exploded. Subtile and small Leska, the typical third or fourth
liner few years ago, incredible increased his performance and now leads
the whole shooting table in extraliga and attacks the all-time record of
Pavel Patera who made 87 points out of 52 games. He was invited to the
team for Sweden Hockey Games.
On the fourth spot there is Slavia Prague, led by Vladimir Ruzicka, the
captain of Olympic champion from Nagano. Slavia had to play without last
year Philadelphia Flyers` draft Roman Malek, who is having a head injury
after being hit with the puck, and former Pittsburgh Penguin Josef Beranek
(also an injury) who was unstoppable in the beginning of the
season. Viktor Ujcik, who was one the deciding factors in last year`s WC
finals, cannot find his optimal shooting form so far but is substituted by
skillful Daniel Branda, another newcomer in the Czech national team. Good
play comes also from Milan Antos, who moved from Pilsen before the
season. In last days traded its captain Jan Alinc, who played at the
Olympics in Lillehammer, for Becherovka Karlovy Vary captain Ondrej
At the fifth spot there is Trinec led by a new coach former great
defenceman Antonin Stavjana. His main goal was to improve defence and he
mde it. At least partially. Trinec bought Olympic champion Libor Prochazka
who suffered aweful in Karlovy Vary last year, and Petr Jancarik from
Pardubice. Also Miroslav Guren after several productive years on Toronto
Maple Leafs' farm system, returned to the Czech extraliga. Last year
national team player Mario Cartelli (has Italian grandfother) is now only
Vitkovice have a great team and could have even better but were unable to
pay Pavel Patera after his return from Minnesota. Vitkovice have a great
goalie in Jiri Trvaj, long time substitute for Martin Prusek (now with
Ottawa Senators` farm team). He was nominated to the national team for
Sweden Hockey Games. Vitkovice have Olympic champion and three times World
Champion Martin Prochazka and Olympic champion and a gold medal goal
scorer from Hannover David Moravec in the first line but money problems
were reported from this club. They fired forward Ludek Krayzel after
receiving 7 games suspension. Krayzel said the main reason is not his
productivity but money issue...
Seventh is Znojmo. This team had an aweful start and made many changes so
far. It has a new captain Slovak Peter Pucher, the only foreign captain in
the Czech extraliga, and brought several low leagues player in after
desperate start and this policy brought results so far.
Litvinov sold almost all above average players from the last season -
Robert Reichel, Zdenek Orct, Angel Nikolov, Karel Pilar or Robert Kysela,
for example. The only new star came from U.S.A. Petr Klima did not want to
sell cars anymore and came to the Czech Republic play hockey again. The
Stanley Cup holder plays in the first line and scored several crucial
goals so far. Many points in last games came from second line led by David
Hruska who finally found his lost talent in connection with Jiri Gombar
and Martin Filip.
9th spot belongs to the last year`s champion Vsetin. Vsetin lost majority
of all sponsors but had great start into the season. Former star
39-year-old Rostislav Vlach joined the team again after spending several
years in Slovakian extraliga and 17-years-old Jiri Hudler led the third
line towards great performance. However, Vsetin is in a deep hole last few
games - did not win six games in a row.
Ceske Budejovice had to play its first home game on Tabor`s ice and it was
terrible ice, few spectators and bad light caused their bad
start. Budejovice lost their top stars during summer but are still in the
run for eight spot. They recently traded national team player Kamil
Brabenec for Pilsen`s Petr Korinek.
Plzen had a horrible start. After first round victory over Znojmo could
not win for nine games in a row. The goalie Miroslav Simonovic (former
Slovak national team goalie) allowed tons of easy goals and was sent back
home. Pilsen borrowed No 2. goalie from Pardubice Libor Barta and its
performance improved a bit.
On the 12th spot there is Havirov with great Pavel Cagas in goal and a big
surprise named Pavel Vala in the first line. He came from fourth line of
Zlin but used the chance it was given to him in Havirov.
Thirteenth is Karlovy Vary. Becherovka has the lowest budget because the
main sponsor announced it will stop support the team after this
season. Great coach duo Marek Sykora and Radim Rulik (they led Pilsen in
last years) made competitive team out of no name players, they play very
collectively and Petr Franek in goal is a key factor.
Vagnerplast Kladno has had strong team in the last few years. However, its
results are very bad. Zdenek Orct and Robert Kysela, the newcomers from
Litvinov, have not been in a good shape so far, World Junior Champion
Tomas Plekanec cannot lead team by himself yet and the experienced players
are much weaker than the expectations were. Olympic champion and three
time World Champion Pavel Patera played three games for his home team but
was pointless in the first two games and made two assists in his third
game. After the game, he moved to Russian team Avangaard Omsk where he
finnish this season. Kladno made its only regulation time victory in the
Great hockey in a small country
Author: © Ada
Language correction: Miss Sayaka.
According to the prestigious magazine, The Hockey News, the Czech Extraleague is the best hockey league in Europe. It is difficult to say though, as Czech clubs do not usually win international competitions like Continental Cup or European Hockey League. Many experts explain that the most important competition for Czech teams is Czech Extraleague. It is a very exhausting competition where you need maximal effort to win any game and club competitions cannot be won without giving everything to it. Players are simply exhausted and cannot give international competitions the dedication they deserve. The Czech national team experiences "its goldest outof golden times". Czechs won world championship in Vienna, Austria 1996, and went ahead to win the Tournament of the Century - Olympic Games in Nagano 1998. A year later, they won the World Championship in Lillehammer, Norway 1999. In winter 2000 Czechs won the World Junior Championship for the first time in their history. In 2000 they repeated their World Championship triumph in St. Petersburg, Russia - and they even remained unbeaten there. In 2001 the Czech junior team defended their World Championship title in Moscow. The Czechs are also World Champions 2000 and 2001 in veteran competition, they have Art Ross Trophy holder Jaromir Jagr, goaltenders Dominik Hasek and Roman Cechmanek and the Devils duo Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias, who were the main forces of the Stanley Cup winners 2000. Today, ice hockey is most popular sport in the country. It has the best coverage on television, the most people in stadiums and a growing number of active players. But this article should not be an ode to Czech hockey. It should just be the story of the "Cesky Telecom Extraliga" (as the official name of their competiton) season 2000/01.
The 2000/01 season was one of the closest and most thrilling seasons since the start of the play-off system in 1986. Until the last 52. round was over, the eight teams for play-offs was known. The only thing that was known before this round was that Slovnaft Vsetin would enter play-offs round from the 1st spot and that either Sparta Prague or Ocelari Trinec (Trinec Steelers) would not make the play-offs. The teams between 2nd and 7th place could have ended up anywhere and calculations concerning who would play whom were futile until it was all over.
Sparta, the defending champions, needed to earn at least one point in a home game against Pardubice. Trinec needed a loss from Sparta and a home victory against Keramika Pilsen. Sparta severely beat Pardubice and demoralized players of Trinec acknowledged the live score from Paegas Arena (the stadium where Sparta play their games) after two periods and in desperation lost a game, which was almost won, in overtime. The fans were whistling to the end and did not say good-bye to their players. When it was announced Karlovy Vary were leading Continental Zlin, the heart of many teams really relieved because they really did not want to meet Vsetin in the first play-off round. Slavia Prague needed one point to end up seventh in their last game in Znojmo and they met the same opponent in the first round of the play-offs. Vitkovice beat Havirov, a nearby city, and finished sixth. They started the most important game of the year on Pardubice ice. Sparta Prague won the last game and it meant fifth spot for them, which resulted in a series against Litvinov, starting on Litvinov ice.
Before the start of the season, a big change occurred in the rules of the Czech Extraleague. A new three point system was brought in. Ties after 60 minutes now brought one point to each team and both teams could earn one extra point in the five minute overtime which was played with four players on both sides. A victory in regulation would be awarded by 3 points. It was criticized a lot at the beginning, but as the time flew by people warmed to the thrilling open overtimes and the league was very equal so there was no big point difference among teams as was predicted. There was no rule changes in the 1. CP liga (2nd highest league), 2. Liga (3rd highest league) and lower leagues. If the counting was according to the old system, the position of many teams would be changed, but the top eight teams which made the play-offs, would remain the same. The league was extraorinarily close. Several rounds before the end, all the teams except Karlovy Vary, Kladno and Havirov had a chance to make the play-offs.
Practically since New Year, it was clear the play-offs would not be missed by HC Slovnaft Vsetin. On January 5th, Vsetin won in Ceske Budejovice and took over the league leadership. With just one exception they remained on the top to the end. Vsetin experienced hard times prior the season. The management lacked money and many people speculated the end of hockey in Vsetin. The club owed a lot of money to the players and the renewing of contracts was postponed several times. Several times it was announced the club bad been sold - once to Luxembourg, once to Switzerland, but as it turned out, it was pretence. Jiri Dopita did not lose his confidence in the team bosses and he waited with signing of the new contract until the situation was stabilized. He refused a million contract from the Florida Panthers and stayed at home. In the end, the management paid all their debts and signed new contracts with key players. However, Olympic champions Martin Prochazka and Pavel Patera did not live up to expectations in previous season and they moved to Vitkovice (Patera left for Minnesota eventually) and the corner-stone of success, Roman Cechmanek, signed a contract with Philadelphia Flyers. The Moravian team bought a new goalie Jaroslav Kames from Eisbaren Berlin where Kames was only No. 2 goalie and brought a silver medallist from St. Petersburg, Martin Strbak, from Litvinov and former national team defenceman, Milan Nedoma, from Ceské Budejovice. At the beginning of the season, the team had only two lines able to compete with the rest of the league as the third line consisted from juniors. Shortly after the season started it was filled out by two players returning from Finland - Jiri Burger and Ludek Krayzel. Mainly Burger brought a lot of power to the team. In the beginning it was mainly Dopita`s first formation with Slovak sharp shooter Jan Pardavy leading Vsetin to their victories. The five time champion had a weaker period at the end of November when they had several injured players. An assistant coach, Miroslav Venkrbec, was fired and replaced by Jan Neliba, who coached Slovakian Martin at the beginning of the season and came back to Vsetin after several years. Neliba and the previous head coach Zdislav Tabara were put on the same level. Vsetin overcame the small crisis and started to put their opponents out to dry again. Eventually they won the regular season 17 points ahead of HC Znojemsti Orli (Znojmo Eagles).
to be continued...
Znojmo ended up second in the regular season competition and it was the best success in their history. Their second season in the Czech extraliga did not start very well though. At the end of October, when the coach Milan Chalupa was called out from the team, they were 12th out of the 14 teams. After 49 rounds they manage to be on the second spot! They went up through the table in small steps and they did not give any big goals for this season. Their power was modest and they achieved much better results than some other economically stronger teams. The team from northern Bohemia had a strong goalie, Oldrich Svoboda, who suffered a brain stroke last season in German club, Essen Moskitos, and many clubs were scared to offer the contract to him. Znojmo fired the Slovak national goalie, Pavol Rybar, who went to Slovan Bratislava and signed a deal with Svoboda. It was a great move in the end! They had also two fantastic attackers. The brain of the first line, Peter Pucher, and the shooter Marek Uram. The Slovak duo was almost unstoppable and their combination reminded fans of the Patera-Prochazka duo at their best. It was a real pleasure to watch them, however, unfortunately, Uram lost his form during the play-offs and was also cut off the Slovakian national team before the World Championship. Uram competed to the last round with Patrik Martinec of Sparta to become the best scorer in the league and with Petr Sykora of Pardubice to become the best shooter in the league. There was a cheating by a Znojmo registration clerk who marked one goal and one assist to Uram in spite of the fact he was not even on the ice on one occasion and did not touch the puck in the other case. All the games in Czech Extraliga were televised (one game a week is live from 17:00 on CT2 and the programme named BULY is one of the best hockey programmes in the world), so the cheating was not hard to reveal Uram did tell the truth right after the game though. Znojmo had a really weak second line in the beginning. Many goals were scored against them so when they found the optimal combinations, their results went up. The defenceman David Havir was very productive and as a no-name player even made it to the national team for few games. Milan Prochazka, Patrik Fink, Radek Haman and Karel Plasek (when healthy) also had good regular seasons.
Pardubice ended up eighth in last three season, but they built up really great players for this season. After 10 years in Finland, forty year old veteran, Otakar Janecky, called "Mr. Jokerit" or in Czech lands "Janeba" after a guy who likes to smoke from a famous funny story of Czech entertainers. Some players who easily could have made the team in previous seasons did not succeed and were sold to other clubs. Eighteen rounds before the end, the Eastern Bohemians even led the whole league, but a small crisis came their way and their spot in play-offs was in jeopardy with three rounds to go. Probably the best audience in the league loved their new captain Otakar Janecky, who helped in his last season, before leaving for Finland, capture the last title for Pardubice. He was the last from Pardubice attackers who scored a goal in the season, he had incredible passes, which helped his teammate Petr Sykora II (played few games for Nashville several seasons ago and a brother of Michal Sykora from Philadelphia) to become the best shooter in the league. First part of the season was great for a young goalie, Adam Svoboda. Many people wanted him on the national team but he lost his form in the second part of the season and did not find it in play-offs.
Litvinov had a strong first part of the season and led the competition in mid August.. But they had pretty small roster and lot of injuries so they could not hold their position. They had a strong defense, the best for many years. The defense was led by most productive defenceman Karel Pilar who was thrown out of Sparta Prague for a lack of talent during his junior years. Litvinov had besides Dopita the greatest attacker and leader of the league - Robert Reichel, former NHL star who might return to Phoenix after the manager there, Smith, was fired. The only Finn in the league, Vesa Karjalainen, did not meet expectations and left the team after several months, he finished the season with the Italian Sterzing Broncos. Petr Rosol, the last world champion from Prague 1985 in Czech extraliga also had a weak season. He still had good technical skills but he lacked speed and physical play. He did not remind fans of the old Rosol from the Rosol-Ruzicka-Klima line. There was a famous saying at the time of this line: Rosol, Ruza, Klima, zatocime s nima! (Rosol, Ruzicka (abbreviated), Klima, we will give you you`ll catch it - the free translation). Rosol stayed on the roster till the end but after the season he retired.
The biggest disappointment of the regular season was Sparta Prague. Economically this very strong club did not play good hockey at all and almost did not make it to the play-offs. Before the season they even sold permanent tickets which were valid only for play-offs. They had to make a charge to even get there! After last year`s title and world championship triumph, three defencemen Frantisek Kucera, Michal Sykora and Ladislav Benysek and one attacker, David Vyborny went to the NHL and the newcomers did not show good quality in the beginning.
Vlastimil Kroupa from Essen and Libor Zabransky from Vsetin have both NHL pasts but did not find their form until the play-offs. During the season, Canadian Johnathan Aitken also came to Sparta from Providence (AHL) but his discipline and performance were poor and he was fired after several months. In late November, coaching duo Frantisek Vyborny and Pavel Hynek were completed by Milos Riha who coached Karlovy Vary at the beginning of the season, but on the last day in February, Riha was taken off the team and Vyborny with his assistant coached the team again. The team suffered several injuries during the season - world champions Michal Bros and Vladimir Vujtek were the biggest offensive losses. However, some results were really terrible. The home loss with Pardubice 1-9 was really humiliating. It was not very far from first missing the play-offs for Sparta Prague since the 1994/95 season.
Vitkovice ended the previous season in complete desperation. Finally they saved themselves in the Extraliga by beating Jihlava in a relegation series but it was obvious many changes have to come. And they really came. They signed a deal with a new coach, Alois Hadamczik, who has strong financial connections and can find sponsors for the team he leads. They also signed Olympic champions from Nagano, three time world champions and the true symbols of Czech hockey in second part of 90`s, Martin Prochazka and Pavel Patera. Russian Dmitrij Jerofejev came back from loan in Trinec, Vitezslav Skuta, who is well known for his cruel hit with the hockey stick a la Marty McSorley (it was said, it was not intentionally though) on his new Vitkovice teammate Roman Kadera, and Marek Ivan, who played a big part of his life in East Coast Hockey League where only the strongest survive. His style filled with hits and lack of the use of his brain put many teams off their tracks. They had the most equal goaltending duo in the Extraleague. Martin Prusek and Jiri Trvaj were very dependable goalies and the team had a strong start. In the first half of January they held themselves in 5th position but then lost several close games and if an outstanding series in the final part of the season had not come, they would not have played in the play-offs. Olympic champion David Moravec solved his family problems and after several weak years he had a great season and was called up to the national team again. Martin Prochazka and Roman Kadera had also very fine seasons, in spite of several tough injuries for Prochazka. Interesting was that all the defencemen except Jerofejev scored only one goal in total in the whole regular season.
Slavia Prague experienced their best season in their history. Their new manager, Vladimir Ruzicka, the world champion from 1985 and the captain of Olympic winners from Nagano 1998, brought several new talented players from his home in Litvinov and also several players from the second highest league. Slavia did not start season well and it did not look like making play-offs for a long time. After a weak autumn, general manager Ruzicka exchanged Jaromir Sindel (another world champion from 1985) as a head coach and Slavia went up. They started to play very offensively and the team with the lowest audience in the league improved. After trade of former Slavia star Viktor Ujcik from Trinec (in the past Ujcik and Ruzicka played amazing hockey in the same line), Slavia made a big move towards play-offs. They have possibly one of the best goalis of the future Roman Malek and he helped Slavia a lot in its bad times. There were very strong performances by players brought by Vladimir Ruzicka - Daniel Branda and Viktor Hubl from Litvinov and Petr Martinek and Leos Cermak from the 1. CP liga (Chomutov and Trebic respectively).
Very exciting play-offs in the Czech Republic
(26-03-01 ada) This year's play-offs in the Czech Republic is a chance for fans to see some thrilling hockey. Czech TV is broadcasting hockey everyday and Czech hockey fans can enjoy the beauty of the spectacle from the comfort of their own home. All the quarterfinal series were very close and they were full of questionable calls. Sparta Prague beat Litvinov 4-2 in their series. In the first game the Litvinov goalie, Zdenek Orct, was ejected after throwing a small punch to one Richard Zemlicka. He was sorely missed by his team in the penalty shootout. Big discussions arose earlier in the game after the approving of a Litvinov equalizer late in the third period. Litvinov missed their captain Robert Reichel due to the arm injury in the fifth game of the series and the first game was of utmost importance to them.
In the other series, Vsetin, the Czech champions of 1996-2000, beat Zlin 4-2 too, but were very disappointed with the officials. Zlin played very good defensive hockey and Vsetin captain, Jiri Dopita, was angry and said the officials did not let Vsetin play hockey. The officials were also heavily criticized by other players.
Slavia Prague beat Znojmo 4-3. Znojmo lost the decider after two fatal mistakes by goalie Oldrich Svoboda. This was the only series where officials were not heavily criticized.
An emotional performance was given by the Pardubice players in their series with Vitkovice. Pardubice was the better side in the series, but had a weaker goaltender and finally lost the series 4-3. The first controversy came in the sixth game, which was won by Vitkovice in overtime. Vitkovice equalized the game with one minute to go and in overtime Pardubice player, Ales Pisa, lunged at Tomas Srsen of Vitkovice. They fell down in the crease and the goalie was unable to catch the shot from Dmitri Jerofejev. Ladislav Lubina shut the door of the locker room and with a torrent of bad words he refused to be interviewed a television crew. A much more significant situation arose on Pardubice ice in the decider. The first incident occurred in the 33rd minute when the puck stopped somewhere near the goal line. The Pardubice players said the puck did not cross the line and that the whistle blew before the puck could even get there. But the crucial goal was given. The next situation came with 5 seconds to go when Pardubice had pulled their goalie. Otakar Janecky hit the Vitkovice goalie in the mask and the play should have been stopped, but the referee let the game continue. The Pardubice players went crazy! The national team defenceman, Ales Pisa, hit the linesmen, Vilem Cambal, in his face. He fell to the ice and spent the night in hospital. The captain, 40 year old Otakar Janecky, lost his grandeur and said in live coverage of TV: "Mr. Referee, go to sh*t! And you, TV guys, do not make an idiot out of me!" Strong words from a big hockey gentleman as he was refered to in the Czech media...
The referees met on Sunday and decided to go for a strike! There is a strong hate among the Czech public and among hockey players. Referees are said to be reason of all unsuccessful results in Czech hockey, including the world championship. They are often said to be the weakest part of Czech hockey. Now they decided to fight against it and said they will not be available for semi-finals and finals. The director of APK (Assossiation of Professional Clubs) Stanislav Sulc was shocked. "They do not offer any solution to us. What shall we do right now, on Sunday night? I am also disgusted by the words and campaign against the referees and I suggest to forbid any comments on referees on the day of a game. The comments one day after would look very differently after the players and coaches would see everything on video and the emotions would decrease rapidly.
The Czechs are heading for National Hockey League
The Czechs won the last Olympics and last two World Championships.
With two new teams entering the National Hockey League, the NHL needs to
stock its rosters with additional talent and are spending much of their
efforts looking for it here in central Europe. All the best
Czech players, with an exception of Jiri Dopita, whose wife does not want to
leave for the U.S.A., are heading for the NHL. Every year new figures emerge
but this year the quality of the depleted Czech hockey may end up going down
like the Titanic. But my love for the game will go on unabated! I love
hockey no matter who plays this game :-)
Author: © Ada
Language correction: Echo.
Every year during the summer months hockey supermarkets all over Europe
open their doors. There is no doubt about the quality of their goods, and
low prices looks very attractive. And advertising banners or quantity
discounts? No need of them. This good sells by itself. And who are those
active customers? Yes, you are right. The customers are famous and rich
In this article I don't want to describe the whole European supermarket
network, I will focus on one part, which is the most visited in recent
years. This part has a proud name "The Czech Republic".
There are plenty of answers to these question, why are these super- (or,
concerning last year's amounts of goods, hyper- or mega-) markets so
popular? The main one is they have the lowest prices. The price of
whoever, who comes to NHL varies in decades of thousands dollars.
Everybody knows that this price is ridiculous, but until the contract between IIHF
and NHL changes, the increasing of this price is not realistic. This
contract (between NHL and IIHF) looks like a sweet dream to all football
managers all over the world. Fortunately, something so unlogical
doesn't exist in football, and the price of players can be created freely
on the market.
Under these conditions, general managers of NHL teams can buy
players in European supermarkets without any limits.
Another reason of popularity of Czech market, is the success of Czech
hockey in last years international hockey - Gold - olympic medals in
Nagano 98, world championship titles in 96,99, and 2000, and Under-20
junior world title in 2000.
Third important factor sequents of an expansion of NHL, when the new
teams need more good players and Europe is a easy source for them.
Let's stop with counting reasons of transfers and let's make step towards
the actors of these transfers. I will begin with new boys, Columbus and
Minnesota, which covers more than one third of all new Czech and Slovak
players in NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- He is not some kind of rookie in the NHL. He played for
Chicago, Vancouver, Hartford and Philadelphia some years ago. Three years
ago he returned to Sparta Prague where he won the Czech Extraleague title
this year. His excellent play gives him an unofficial title of the best
defenceman outside NHL. It seemed that NHL is already a closed book for
him, even the player claimed in MF Dnes (most favourite newspapers in the
Czech Republic) that he will never return to NHL. His mind suddenly
changed after a solid Columbus offer for a one-way contract worth $1.1
mil. for one year. This offer was certainly supported by Kucera's international
success, as a member of the winning team in Nagano, and world champion 99
and 2000, he was the best defenseman of these championships.
- Another Czech star who will join the Columbus squad. David
doesn't exceeds in physical parameters, but his advantages are in
stickhandling and excellent skating. He is also a great passer. Under his
father as a coach he won the Czech Extraleague this year in Sparta Prague.
He also had the best point's stats from all the players of the Czech
Extraleague . Before becoming an NHL star, he can use some experiences he
gained in the minor leagues (Cape Breton) in mid-90s.
- Talented right winger whose legs are often faster than
his mind. He likes physical play and also shooting. He didn't succed as a
junior, in minor leagues several years ago, and returned to his hometown
Zlin. But there he didn't get even onto the 4th line, so he was traded to
where he made himself into one of the leading forwards of the team.
Candians scout Dave King claimed on Czech TV that he is a possible
reinforcement of the Habs for next year. But King lately became a Columbus
head coach and took Spanhel with him. Spahnel was also named into the
national team for champisonships in St. Petersburg this year, but he done
some irrational fouls, and after two games he spent the rest on a bench.
- Raised in Litvnov, where comes e.g. Reichel, Rucinsky,
Ruzicka, Slegr or Hlinka are from. He tried to succed in San Jose in 97,
despite making 8 goals in 11 games, he didn't make the team the following
season, and after a third season in the minors he moved to IFK Helsinki.
He is an olympic winner from Nagano, although he played only three games there. He
is also world champion of 1999, for this year he wasn't little with a bit
of controversy named into national team. His stats looks incredible, his
all-career average is more that 1.2 points per game in pro-hockey. His
advantages are fast skating and a sense for scoring goals, he is always at
the right place. This is probably his last chance to make a success in the NHL
and he will go for it with all of his strength.
- Originally from Kladno, another traditional Czech hockey
centre, Jaromir Jagr learned his first characters of hockey alphabet in
Kladno also. Patera is a symbol of a success of the Czech national team in
the second half of 90s. Triple world champion and olympic winner. Although
he lowered his level a bit last season, he is one of the most
constructive center forwards of European hockey. His abilities are
increased with a cooperation with his hockey twin Martin Prochazka (they
played together in Kladno, Stockholm, Vsetin and national team). There are
small doubts about his adaptability for hard North American style of play,
and for things around hockey. These doubts originate from his first
experiences in North America last season. After a few games in Dallas
he was sent to the farm team for Russian forward Lyashenko, but he
refused to play in minor league, and he moved back to Czech Vsetin. He has
also experiences from Sweden, he was a member of famous "Blue line" in AIK
Stockholm with wingers Prochazka and Vejvoda.
- Defensive defenseman with a small experiences from NHL
(he played for Edmonton). In 98 he played in minor league and it was the
reason why he missed the greatest hockey success of Czech hockey in
Nagano. After return from America he reached the Czech title in Sparta and
world title in St.Petersburg.
- He spent the last season in Ceske Budejovice, but
originally from Slovakia, where he was the best scorer of Slovak
league. His productivity even increased in Ceske Budejovice and he became
the greatest star of local team. As a member of Slovak national team he
got silver medals in St.Petersburg. He preffers technical play rather than
strength, and this may be his small handicap in NHL, but his skating is
- The oldest player drafted this year (born 1968), Slovak
defenseman called "Seko", signed a contract with Minnesota as a last of
all players from the Czech Extraleague. His play is very offensive,
sometimes it looks like team plays with four forwards. This is his last
chance to make a succes in NHL, and he has a good chance to make the
team. In last 5 season playing for Trinec, Seko achieved 180 points in 278
games, it means average 36 points per season. Very offensive guy. He
claimed that he would accept any offer from Minnesota which enables him to
play in NHL…
- Raised in Mlada Boleslav, town of the cars from Skoda
Auto. He made his first appearances in Czech Extraleague in the jersey of
Trinec Steelers with his friend Martin Havlat. Trinec is known by buying
youngters all over the country. Philadelphia chose Pletka because his
cooperation with Tomas Divisek from czech junior national team (Divisek
played last season for Philadelphia Phantoms). Pletka was one of the best
scorers of last two season in Czech Extraleague, and he also played some
games for the national team. But he didn't make the team for world
championships, he was the last one cut .
- Muscular and huge defenseman, which is suprisingly good
also in scoring. He tried to success in NHL in San Jose, Chicago and Tampa
Bay, but like many of his friends, he wasn't good enough for local coaches
so he moved back to the Czech Republic, to Prague's Sparta. His first
season was gleamless, but in second he was one of the best d-men in the
whole competition. With his teammate Frantisek Kucera he created the best
defensive pair of the world championships in St.Petersburg. His brother
Petr Sykora II appeared in few games for Nashville in last season, but
they are not relatives to Petr Sykora from New Jersey Devils.
- young centerforward from Vitkovice, where he played on
third line. Gold from junior U-20 championships in Sweden, but for next
season are his perspectives probably only in Philadelphia Phantoms in
AHL. There he could make a Czech line with Pletka and Divisek.
- Recently probably the best goalie outside NHL. He saved
five consecutive Czech titles for Vsetin and he was the base of the
success of the Czechs in St.Petersburg. He is triple world champion and in
Nagano he was a backup goalie for Dominik Hasek. He is a kind of tall
goalie, like Roman Turek, Olaf Kolzig or Sean Burke. In Philly they hope,
that he will be a rewarding replace for Vanbiesbrouck, besides young star
Boucher. Fylers has offered him a very good contract, although he is a
rookie - about $970 000.
Los Angeles Kings
- Skilled right wing, another guy from Litvinov in the world
of hockey. In Czech, his name means that he is hairy, but the true is
reversed. Last few seasons he played for Finnish team HPK Hameenlinna with
another Czech Roman Simicek. HPK means hockey playing kings, so he is
moving from one jersey with a king to another. He scored opening goals on
both world championships in 1999 and 2000, and eventually both were won by
the Czech team.
- Slovak defenseman, last year winner of the Slovak top
league with Slovan Bratislava. After great appearance in St.Petersburg he
signed a contract with Czech team Trinec, but he didn't play a single
game for them and signed for LA Kings.
- Young defenceman from Ceske Budejovice, he spent part of
the season in 1st division team Pisek, into Ceske Budejovice's line-up he
got since December. Also junior U-20 world champion.
- 27-year-old defenceman of Slava Prague. He was considered
as only average defenceman of an average defence of Slavia. In one
interview for czech newspaper Sport he claimed, that he wants to be a
replacement for Ray Bourque...
- Perspective teenager from Trinec, a teammate of Vaclav
Pletka from one line. The only Czech (or Slovak) player in history who won
both junior and senior championships. And even in the same season. He
played with the "Kladno twins" Patera and Prochazka in St. Petrsburg. His
play is very offensive, in his last two seasons he achieved more than 40
points in each. His father is a president of Ytong Brno and Havlat helped
this team in advancement game for second level in Czech hockey
structure. The second level league is paradoxically called the First
League. Ytong did not succeed but eventually they bought the league from
Melnik which went bankrupt. He preffered this event before the
participation in national team event, and he was hugely criticized by
newspapers. In spite of that he made the team. Probably the only player
who promised, that if he wouldn't get into first Senators team, he will
return to Trinec.
Toronto Maple Leafs
- Young defenceman with excellent physical parameters. He is
not relative to Petr Svoboda - man who scored gold goal in Nagano, now
playing in Tampa Bay, but he is the son of Radoslav Svoboda, who was the
world champion in 1985. He played several games for national team, but
more than his play called an attention his sentences about Russians. "I am
not a racist, but I don't like Russians." When he played in junior world
championships, the team didn't get any goals during his ice time.
- Young centerforward again from Litvinov. He gained his
popularity by his action intermezzo on junior championships, when he
injured Swedish player Marcus Weinhandl. After brutal stick hit, Weinhandl
lost his sight in one eye, Travnicek has a 18 months penalty, he cannot
appear in international hockey, but this punishment is not valid for
NHL. Pathetically said, the nation of famous one-eyed general Jan Zizka of
Trocnov who was considered to be the best commander of the whole Europe
"produces" one-eyed heroes also for other nations… It is worth reminding
that Slovak Marian Hossa who played for all Czechoslovakian junior teams
hit Brian Berard with his stick and Berard still fights to save his
eye. Now Travnicek can show, that he could be a valid member of the team
for other things, not only injure his opponents.
- Centerforward from Vitkovice, last two seasons played for
HPK Hamennlinna. Was most of last season injured (reason why he missed
world championships), but nevertheless he is one of the most requested
Czech players. He had a contract with HPK for three years, but Vitkovice,
Trinec and Vsetin did everything possible to acquire him into their
squad. But Roman was selected in this year's NHL Entry Draft by Penguins
and they have offered him a one way contract. He refused three offers, but
the fourth one he accepted, mainly because of the coach of Penguins,
countryman Ivan Hlinka. Simicek became currently 8th Czech player and also
4th Czech centerforward in Pittsburgh.
Anaheim Mighty Ducks
- Born and raised in Kladno. He was selected for the Czech
national team several times where he played on the left side, but he has
never made the team for world championship. He left Kladno for Finnish
club HPK Hameenlinna where he became part of striking line with Simicek
and Vlasak. However he was traded for Ilves Tampere soon and now he is is
heading for Disneyland.
New York Rangers
- Offensive defenceman, he played in Czech Extraleague for
Karlovy Vary (team is named Hockey Club Becherovka, after its sponsor,
manufacturer of the famous Czech drink). During last season he moved to
SaiPa Laapenranta (Finland) and also made few appearances in Czech
national team. To his trade to SaiPa Becherovka's coach Milos Riha said:"I
did not enjoy watching the wry face of defenceman Richter anymore!" He
favoured leaving to NHL to big chance to play in Czech national team this
year, but his future in Rangers is unsure, because the Rangers' management
preffers mainly players with high contracts. And Martin Richter as a
hasn't a high one.
There are also some players, who were about to go to NHL, but for various
reasons they stayed in Europe. The main one is Jiri Dopita. He got many
offers from Florida Panthers, but he felt that he would better stay in
Vsetin. But local management has to solve financial problems. Dopita had
been patient for a very long time and in these days his patience is coming
on top. We will see in short time if he will stay or go.
For a camp to New Jersey Devils was prepared defenseman from Vsetin Jan
Srdinko, but they didn't make a deal. Los Angeles was a target of a Slovak
defenceman Martin Strbak, but later he moved from Litvinov to
Vsetin. Young goalie from national U-20 team Zdenek Smid was about to try
a camp in Atlanta Thrashers, but he decided to stay another year in
Karlovy Vary. Forward Michal Bros recieved an offer from Minnesota, but
this offer was worse than his contract in Sparta Prague so he stayed.
From NHL returned only one player at national team level, Libor Prochazka
from St.Louis, but he played almost the whole season in Worchester (farm
of St. Louis). Also few young players from minors returned, e.g. Adam
Saffer to Slavia Prague, Jan Choteborsky to Plzen or Daniel Bohac to
Havirov. We will see what they learned overseas.
WC'2000: Heavily and uncompromisingly
(02-08-00 Freddie Mercury and ada :-))
We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world
Freddie Mercury died but this song will live forever... The Czechs
defended their World Championship title! I attempted to find some reasons
why. Here it comes - the first article about Czech hockey! (In this article you can also read about the other teams and about WC generally.)
Author: © Ada
Language correction: pilgrim and Autumn
Other languages: Czech (by Ada), German (by Tina), French (by Jack Barron)
(I just want you to know I am very happy about the Czech victory inspite
of the fact that the following sentences do not indicate it.)
The 64. World Championship is over. We did not experience any
assassination, robbery with violence, poisoning from food or other
blunders and failures as some Czech newspapers impregnated with
anti-Russian propaganda had forecast. Even the awaited disaster of the
Czech national team did not occur. The exact opposite! THE CZECHS BECAME
THE WORLD CHAMPIONS AGAIN! In the Czechoslovakian finals the Czechs beat
in the Czechoslovakian finals their Slovakian brothers 5-3 and defended
their World Championship title. All the Czech newspapers sang praises up
our hockey players on their front pages. The Czech fans met again on the
Old-Town square in Prague to watch the finals on a big screen. This time
25 thousand fans united their vocal chords. Again and again in a short
period of time we could heard touching words about how this small
country in the heart of Europe overcame all the troubles which plagued their
national players, overcame the whole big world and gained the gold
medals. I will not add any such words. For me personally the gold medal
of the Czech hockey players from the World Championship is an overwhelming
experience, but if I contribute also with some sublime words I would
consider myself to be a liar. I realize the other side of this
winner-story only too well.
The Czech hockey players experienced feelings of being unbeatable. They
incredibly and unobjectively criticized the performances of referees in
the key games. After the only loss in the tournament -- with Finland -
though the referee made quite correct calls during the entire game, the
players gave the impression he was a nincompoop who does not know what
is going on. After the finals against Slovakia, players blamed a Canadian
referee Acheson for many penalties for the Czech team, but most of the
time they really deserved them. Also the answer of Jiri Dopita, one of
the best attackers of the tournament, who replied to a question about the
preparation for the tie against Latvia: "I will not see Latvians until
the game starts, I think that is enough." That did not sound very
sympatetically. By the way, the independent foreign press wrote about
the help of referees to the Czech team in this game…
The Czechs should not forget how lucky they were last year on their way to the gold. They were no less lucky in 2000. It is true that this time
the Czech players obtained victory independent of the results of the
other teams but not independently of individual failures. Arturs Irbe gave a
key goal to the Czechs (but the great perception of Vaclav Varada should be
also rewarded), in the following power-play, due to the protests, the
Czech scored their leading goal; in another power-play which every
judicious fan just laughed at, the Czechs added the decider.
In the game against Canada the Czechs succeeded mainly because of Roman Cechmanek who deserves the respect of all the Czech fans. Canada had a crushing supremacy in places. In some moments I had a feeling it was
only a question of time before the "Maple Leafs" would eventually somehow
"push the puck" over the scoring line. But a fatal mistake of José Theodore
came and Canadians were down for the count after the heavy punch by a Czech
captain Robert Reichel and did not recover till the end of the game.
Finally in the finals the Czechs were better than the other team, in this case the Slovaks. This year unlike last year, we did not need to rely on the help of others but I still cannot escape the impression that World
Championship was won by others for the Czech team and I will be factual
- Irbe, Theodore, the coaches of Finland and U.S.A., solidarity of the
Russian team and "original" methods of the Swedish hockey federation.
To be objective, Arturs Irbe experienced a great championship. He got the most credit for reaching the quarterfinals. He was really good also in the quarterfinal game but his one and only mistake came in the least timely moment. Jose Theodore was selected for the B-team All-Stars-Game. In
spite of that fact he did not uphold his team in crucial moments when the
medals were at stake. Thanks to cable television TSN, the whole Canada could
see the ricocheted shot or pass of Robert Reichel which resulted in the
deciding goal. In the bronze medal game he made a similiar blunder after
a shot by Tuomainen. By the way, also very questionable was the selecting
of Martin Prochazka (Czech Republic) for the most valuable player of the
If I was a Finnish fan I would hardly be able to bear strange decision
of Mr. Hannu Aravirta. SM- Liiga is considered to be the best league in
Europe. This year's Finnish championship was won by TPS Turku where its
first line, Rintanen-Nurminen-Kallio, streamed out onto the floor in
fluid motion and overpowered the opposing line in such a manner that they laid
down and quit. Patera's blue line in the golden times of AIK Stockholm
performed in the same manner. The so-called
"knight-line" Hentunen-Kapanen-Parsinen was instrumental in winning the
bronze medal for Hameenlina. The goalie for Jokerit Helsinki Pasi
Nurminen managed to catch many pucks during the season and was considered to be the one who captured the silver medal for the team. Not only the Czech
players in SM-liiga believed Nurminen is the best of the three Finnish
goaltenders who were selected for the World Championship. Aravirta went his way
which proved not to be the best solution in the end.
Nurminen has scored the most points during the regular season and the play-offs in the Finnish league. Despite these facts, he was not
selected for the national team and Jokinen took his place instead. Similiarly,
Parsinen was not chosen for the team and Lind was. The youngster
Nurminen was only the third choice for Aravirta. Even though Toskala and Sulander
in their match-ups against Austria and Canada respectively, performed
pathetically, the coach trusted them more and chose them for the
deciding games. In the semifinals - in the most important game of the season -
Toskala disappointed again. Eventually in the bronze medal game the
goaltender of Jokerit got his chance and he confirmed his high standard
The other two Finnish lines with veterans Helminen and Tikkanen played much worse than both lines based on SM-liiga players, with the exception of the bronze medal game when the first Finnish line with Helminen could
be seen on the ice (showed some good combinations on the ice). Both
veterans only commemorated the old bygone times. Especially famous
left-winger Esa Tikkanen could not follow the pace; the times of
combinations with Wayne Gretzky flew by long ago. In spite of this,
this championship did not need to be the last one for Tikkanen according his
own declaration. Who knows the way the two "scraped players" from Turku
and Hameenlina performed but Lind and Jokinen could easily create the
base of another striking line. The record number of nine players from NHL was
not enough for Finland to defend last year's position.
It is true the coach of the U.S.A., Lou Vairo, has Italian ancestors, can name half of the Slovakian national team from the middle 90's, was an
assistent to the head coach during "Miracle on ice" in Lake Placid, led
U.S. team at the Olympics in Sarajevo and spent two years as an
assistent coach for New Jersey Devils. In spite of all these facts he backed the
wrong horse. The star of the World championship could have been called
Robert Esche. However, for Americans NHL is NHL no matter what is going
on. It must be admitted that Damian Rhodes played well against the
Swedes in spite of three goals scored against him. But he was full of
holes in an opening game against Switzerland - and what is even more important - he
repeated his poor performance in the quarterfinals against Slovakia
which removed all the chances of the U.S. team for a medal.
The Russian team - that is a horse of another color. The Russians living
in the Czech Republic had to suffer through more than one humiliation (sometimes the
Czechs like to move from one extreme to the other) and yet did not need hockey
to suffer such. Ice hockey is not a matter of politics - in spite of
that many Czech journalists relished the Russian team's failure. Russian
stars came to Europe because they wanted to represent their home
country; however, they did not manage to form a compact team. Players
from Europe and NHL did not fight as a team and what is more the
trust in a talented goalie, Bryzgalov, turned out to be a fatal disaster
for the Russian team. Bryzgalov was placed on the team by the
intercession of Vladimir Tretjak who was freshly selected as a Russian hockey player
of the century. His non-orthodox style did not catch on, but the career of
this young Russian goalie is still ahead. The cheap goals put Russians
down on the floor and the other goalie, Podomackij, who played most of
the games for Russia during the season, got his chance after it was too late
to be helpful.
Only Sweden worked on its failure in World Championhip systematically
throughout the whole season. The coaches rotated before every
international event, each coach having his own "corner-stone" players,
so the team frame did not develop during the whole season at all. For all that
it is good to recall that the Swedish coaches did not respect the
inviolability of NHL and they did not hesitate to send Eriksson, the defenseman with
Chicago Blackhawks, home because of bad performances in games before the World
The Czechs and Slovaks took advantage of these problems. Although 12
Czech players refused to play for the national team for various reasons and
head coach, Ivan Hlinka, left for Pittsburgh Penguins, the frame of the
Czech team remained unchanged. A difficult obstacle known as Roman
Cechmanek filled the goalie stop, Frantisek Kucera led the defense and a couple attackers Robert Reichel and Jiri Dopita starred also. A Slovakian team was well set up by a young coach, Jan Filc. The team, centered around Miroslav Satan, finally had a good goaltender Jan Lasak. The bad goaltending of the Slovaks was famous but now it seems they have a good prospect for the future. Lasak is a very young, inexperienced
goalie but he is still the best in Slovakia. The move to use an
inexperienced goaltender which was not made by American and Finnish
coaches was realized by Filc. The head coach also considered that Pavol
Rybar, until that time No.1, played more games for the Slovak national
team than in Znojmo in Czech Extraliga this season! Slovaks achieved their
greatest success in ice hockey history. The performance of Satan was
really devilish! He scored the goals in the most important moments of
the games and became according to many observers the most valuable player of
World Championship, closely followed by Roman Cechmanek.
The first eight teams in the World Championship this year, statistically did not differ much from last year's, only the Russian team was replaced by the Latvians. However, this year's World Championship was full of big
surprises, the outsiders rejoiced about their remarkable victories.
History was written by Norway who sensationally beat Canada; Belarus and
Latvia also defeated Russia for the first time ever. The Slovaks managed
to advance to the finals.
The sadest team of the championship was, without a doubt, the French. France defeated Switzerland after a heroic performance in the
qualification round and only their loss to the U.S.A. and a miraculous
performance of the Swiss against the Russians sent the French team to
the relegation round. After a draw against Austria, they lost to Ukraine
by one goal despite of vast pressure in the final period. In the last
day of the relegation round France led 4-1 over Japan after two periods
of play, and Ukraine was leading 2-0 over Austria at the same time which
meant the preservation of France in Pool A. But then the Austrians came
back and frankly the whole French team cried in the locker room...
The Japanese might be whooping it up at the prospect of playing at the
highest level again next year. They will play China, South Korea and
country of similiar talent in ice hockey during the Qualification Round.
It should be just a formality to endure these games. Fortunately, this
dubious rule about the preservation of Japan in Pool A will be valid for
only one more year.
In this year's World Championship it was shown that the differences
among the teams are decreasing. The only team that appeared to be out of
its league was Japan. However, the Czech Hockey Federation officials
proved to be short-sided. They suggested only 12 countries to
participate in the World Championship to save money for the 2003
Championship which takes place in the Czech Republic. Every man and
woman all over the world who love hockey should realize that only
competitive hockey playing with the top teams will contribute to the
spread of ice hockey.
PS: I did not miss that besides Cechmanek, Dopita, Kucera and Reichel
also other players as Sykora, Vyborny, Prospal, Varada and Kaberle
performed fantastically. This article is just a different point of view.
Express your opinion on Forum!!