Many Czechs are likely to be glued to their tv screens over the next two weeks during the ice hockey world championships. A Czech squad with many new faces and a lot of uncertainty who will take to the ice is looking to end a five year medal drought.
ʺBring back the goldʺ was the front page headline of one Czech paper on Friday as the ice hockey world championships were about to start in Denmark. But national hopes are perhaps subdued in the face of recent defeats and what appears to be an experimental squad with a lot of new and young faces.
It was way back in 2010 that the Czechs last struck gold in the world championships and they picked up bronze positions in the following two years. Since then the championships have been dominated by Sweden, Russia, Canada and Finland.
The Czechs are seeded sixth overall in the competition and on that basis should easily make it through the group stage at least. They are in the same group as ice hockey heavyweights Russia and Sweden, neighbours Slovakia, and the sometimes springers of surprises, Belarus and Switzerland.
One betting company put the odds of the Czechs winning the overall championships at 10:1. And in what is widely seen as the warm up completion for the championships, the Euro Hockey tour in Sweden, the Czech team lost all three encounters against Sweden, Russia, and Finland. The Czechs though say they were putting more priority on the experience rather than the results.
Czech coach Josef Jandač has named a squad with many new faces and admitted before the flight to Denmark that injuries meant there were still many open questions particularly about the defence. Those injury issues have remained on the eve of the opening match against Slovakia on Saturday. The coach says the young 20-year-old Filip Hronek, who plays as a defenceman in the lower American Hockey League, will feature in that match. It will be his first appearance for the full national team.
Experience though will feature in the Czech squad as well, most notably in the form of 35-year-old forward Tomáš Plekanec.
ʺWe are definitely are taking a young team. Tomáš Plekanec though has a lot of experience and has had an excellent play off so we wanted to get him. He himself was not sure. Of course, he is a lot older and last year the world championships were not so great for us. Tomáš was concerned about taking the place of a younger player.ʺ
Until recently it might have appeared that Plekanec’s career with the national team might have been over but now he is being looked on as the backbone of the team.
The Czechs are fancied to win against the Slovak in what is seen as a sort of derby match with lots of national pride mixed up. But within 18 hours they will be facing what’s likely to be a much tougher test in the form of the reigning world champions, Sweden.