Nedved calls it a career

Czech forward quits after 24 years in professional hockey

14.03.2014
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Czech forward Petr Nedved battles for the puck with Team USA’s Ryan Callahan at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images

LIBEREC, Czech Republic – The last game of the season for Bili Tygri Liberec was also the last game in the career of the city’s most famous hockey player. On Thursday night Petr Nedved confirmed the end of his illustrious career.

Liberec lost on home ice in the quarter-final qualification game against Vitkovice Ostrava. The 6-2 defeat meant a 0-3 record in the best-of-five series. It was the end of Nedved’s career where it all began – in his hometown before 4,936 fans.

It was a long time ago when Nedved defected from Czechoslovakia. In 1989 he became a refugee in Canada after leaving his Czech team at a tournament in Calgary. Some months later he joined the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds as a 17-year-old where he collected 158 points in his only season in Canadian junior hockey. The year after he crossed the border at the Pacific coast to launch his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks.

After his defection he became a Canadian citizen and represented his adopted country in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games. The silver medal in Albertville is one of the biggest prizes he won internationally.

By 2007 he had played in 982 NHL regular-season games (310 goals, 407 assists) and 71 post-season games (19 goals, 23 assists) for several teams, most recently for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers.

It was then when he returned to his native land that has become a free country in the ‘90s. He joined Sparta Prague for one season and spent six more seasons in the Czech Extraliga as captain of his hometown club Bili Tygri Liberec.

The move back to the Czech Republic made him eligible to represent his native country in IIHF play. Changing the nationality in international play requires a proper transfer and to play and reside in the “new” country for 48 months. In 2012 Nedved had his first chance to represent the Czech Republic in an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and took home the bronze medal.

In Sochi 2014 his international career came full circle when he played in his second Olympic Games, this time for the Czech Republic.

Nedved has seen it all and reconciled with his native country he once defected during the Communist era. For the 42-year-old it was the right moment to end his career.

He said good-bye to the fans in Liberec, threw his jersey and his stick to the audience and left the ice with tears in his eyes.

“I can hardly find anything that gave me as much as hockey did. Hockey was everything in my life,” Nedved was quoted on the club’s website. “It’s over. The last three weeks I began to realize that I’m approaching the end (of my career). There’s no chance I will come back. Something ends and something new will start.”

MARTIN MERK

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