On Wednesday, the Czech Ice Hockey Association announced the roster of 24 players that will be heading to Beijing, and most of the players will be familiar with each other and the coaching staff.
The roster includes 12 from the KHL, four each from the Czech Extraliga and Swiss National League, three from the Swedish Hockey League and one from the Finnish Liiga.
“We have an experienced team with an average age of around 30,” said head coach Filip Pesan, noting the difference between this team and the one he took to Riga for last year’s World Championship. “We could have used more leaders in Riga, so this time we’re depending more on experience than on youth.”
The last Olympic tournament four years ago in PyeongChang was also played without NHL players and the Czechs faired pretty well there, finishing just outside the medals in fourth place following a loss to Canada in the bronze medal game. Seven players return from that 2018 team, including goaltender Patrik Bartosak, defencemen Tomas Kundratek and Vojtech Mozik, and forwards Roman Cervenka, Jan Kovar, Michal Repik and Tomas Zohorna. Additionally, forwards Michael Frolik and David Krejci, as well as Cervenka, competed in Sochi in 2014. This will in fact be 36-year-old Cervenka’s fourth Olympics and 35-year-old Krejci’s third, as both debuted in 2010 in Vancouver.
More recently, last spring’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga had a reduced NHL presence, and 10 of the players from that team – most notably starting goalie Simon Hrubec and captain Kovar – will be back playing for the coaching staff of Filip Pesan, Jaroslav Spacek and Martin Straka a mere nine months later.
While no member of this roster has won an Olympic medal, the coaching and management staff collectively have five. Assistant coaches Spacek and Straka were both part of the most celebrated moment in the history of Czech sports as members of the 1998 Olympic team that won the nation’s only gold medal in ice hockey, and both also won bronze in 2006 in Turin. General manager Petr Nedved won a silver playing for Canada in 1994 in Lillehammer and then represented Czechia 20 years later in Sochi, where he was a teammate of Frolik, Krejci and Cervenka.
“I believe we have chosen the right chemistry,” said Nedved, who noted that changes to the roster for medical reasons are still possible for another 11 days. “(Filip) Chlapik and (Lukas) Jasek are among the players who are ready in case of changes that may still occur. The same is true, for example, of Milan Gulas, who is on the broader list. The final point will not occur until 24 January.”
Four years ago in PyeongChang, Czechia lost to OAR in a tight and emotionally-charged semi-final. This time around, they’ll have the same opponent under the name ROC in their group along with Switzerland and first-time qualifier Denmark. It’ll be a competitive Group B in which the Czechs’ team cohesion should serve them well, as they jockey to get the best seeding possible heading into the knockout stage.
The Winter Olympic men’s tournament begins on 9 February and concludes with the gold-medal game on 20 February.
Patrik Bartosak, Amur Khabarovsk (KHL)
Simon Hrubec, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
Roman Will, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Jakub Jerabek, Spartak Moscow (KHL)
Lukas Klok, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
Ronald Knot, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
Tomas Kundratek, Ocelari Trinec
Vojtech Mozik, Admiral Vladivostok (KHL)
David Sklenicka, Jokerit Helsinki (KHL)
Libor Sulak, Admiral Vladivostok (KHL)
Roman Cervenka, Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (SUI)
Michael Frolik, HC Lausanne (SUI)
Tomas Hyka, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Jan Kovar, EV Zug (SUI)
David Krejci, HC Olomouc
Radan Lenc, Amur Khabarovsk (KHL)
Michal Repik, Sparta Prague
Lukas Sedlak, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Jiri Smejkal, Pelicans Lahti (FIN)
Vladimir Sobotka, Sparta Prague
Michael Spacek, Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE)
Matej Stransky, HC Davos (SUI)
Hynek Zohorna, IK Oskarshamn (SWE)
Tomas Zohorna, IK Oskarshamn (SWE)