By Martin Merk –IIHF.com
THE MEN’S ROSTER
As expected the Czechs will heavily rely on their KHL players. There are 28 players in the Russian-based cross-border league and 15 players are on the Czech roster for the 2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament. There will also be seven players from the Czech Extraliga and three from the Switzerland’s National League be travelling to Korea to represent the country.
“Some players have been clear for a long time but the final question marks have disappeared Sunday night when the Extraliga round ended,” Jandac said about his decision. “We chose the positions so we could put together a balanced team. I believe our strength will be team play. And a great bunch of players like it has always been when Czech hockey was celebrating success.”
Martin Erat, who will serve as team captain, will join a small club of Czech hockey players who have played four Olympics inclucing Vlastimil Bubnik, Josef Cerny, Jiri Holik, Patrik Elias, Dominik Hasek and Tomas Kaberle. Only one Czech player had more Olympic participations, Jaromir Jagr with five. For Roman Cervenka it will be the third Olympics. Cervenka (9) and Erat (7) are also the players who combine for most Olympic and World Championship participations on the team followed by Ondrej Nemec (6) and Jan Kovar (5) while Roman Cervenka has appeared in most national team games (138) before Petr Koukal (118) and Ondrej Nemec (116).
While many players have top-level experience, the absence of NHL players also gives players a chance to be in the international spotlight who haven’t had the chance before. For Patrik Bartosak, Milan Gulas, Dominik Kubalik, Tomas Mertl, Vojtech Mozik and Adam Polasek it will be their first top-level, IIHF-sanctioned event with the men’s national team. Most of them have played in U20 or U18 Worlds before but for Gulas and Mozik it will be the first IIHF-sanctioned tournament of their career.
Still, the Czechs will travel to Korea with a very experienced roster with an average age of 29 years. 36-year-old Erat is the oldest player on the team, 25-year-old Mozik the youngest. Jandac admits that recent World Juniors participant Martin Necas was considered as well but due to injuries he didn’t have the chance to test him with the men’s teams.
The Czech Republic lost in the quarter-finals in Sochi 2014 and Vancouver 2010 but won bronze in Turin 2006 and gold in Nagano 1998. In PyeongChang 2018 they will play defending Olympic champion Canada, Switzerland and host Korea in Group A of the preliminary round.
The Czech team will have its first practices in Prague before leaving to Korea. An exhibition game is planned against Finland in the Seoul region on 11 February before the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament kicks off on the east coast in Gangneung.