Ambassadors for World Juniors
by Organizing Committee|28 OCT 2019
Long-time Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec will serve as World Juniors ambassador for Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in his home country, the Czech Republic.
photo: Jukka Rautio / HHOF-IIHF Images
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The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec is approaching. As part of the promotion of this event, several former hockey players will act as ambassadors of individual national teams with the task of promoting the tournament outside of the Czech Republic.

The list showcases Czech hockey stars that have been active in the country for many years and have the potential to attract international fans to the tournament. Most of them also shone at the World Juniors in the past.

Among the ambassadors are former Dukla Trencin centre and Slovak national team head coach Vladimír Vujtek Sr, former JYP Jyvaskyla winger Petr Hubacek for Finland, long-time Montreal Canadiens centre Tomas Plekanec for Canada and Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek for the USA.

Also among them is Zbynek Irgl, a World Junior gold medallist from 2000 on a team that included Martin Havlat and Vaclav Nedorost. “I have fond memories of our crew and the great atmosphere in the dressing room. We all bonded as hockey players and people. Moreover, coach Radim Rulik managed to incredibly motivate everyone before each game,” the current HC Olomouc forward nostalgically said.

The 38-year-old Vitkovice Ostrava product played for many years in the Russian-based KHL, where he still has a high reputation in the hockey community and he gladly accepted the ambassadorship of the Russian team. “The Russians will contend for the medals. They will bring a great team with stars like Podkolzin and Denisenko,” Irgl summed up.

Also in Group A are the Germans, whose ambassador is former goaltender Petr Briza, who played five seasons in the 1990s in Landshut. “For them, it’s a bit of a group of death because they face Canada, the USA, Russia and the Czechs. If they want to avoid the relegation series, they’ll have to beat one of these great hockey countries,” Briza said.

Like Irgl, Briza is a long-time Czech international with a medal from the World Juniors, specifically from 1984. “I have a lot of memories from that tournament. A negative one is losing a crazy game against Finland, which deprived us of a better finish than the bronze medal,” the current Vice-President of Czech Ice Hockey and IIHF Council member said.

Former winger Martin Hostak also has a bad memory of losing to Finland at the World Juniors. “If we’d beaten or tied them, we’d have won the gold medal but unfortunately we lost,” he said of the 1987 tournament, which the Czechoslovak team played on home ice in four Slovak cities. However, he also stated that the tournament was an important start to his career, which took him overseas and to Sweden. Thanks to his seven seasons with Modo, Sodertalje and Lulea, he was an ideal candidate for the Swedish ambassador.

"The Swedes have a much larger base in youth categories. They just let the boys play there and then choose the best ones for the academies, where the hockey training really starts. It is highly competitive that the guys are working hard and want to be better and better,” said Hostak, who figures Tre Kronor to be a medal favourite.