Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Czechs in the 2014 Olympics will be figuring out which water bottles have Metamucil in them and which ones won’t. In fact, with a roster this old, it’s no wonder that Frank Musil isn’t playing for this team.
It’s safe to say the Czechs stunned the hockey world Monday when they named their 25-man roster for Sochi and it had a 42-year-old Petr Nedved on it. He still plays hockey? Apparently he does, with 32 points in 34 games for Bili Tygri Liberec in the Czech Extraliga. Didn’t he play for Canada’s Olympic team in 1994? Yup, but as long as he has been playing for four years in his current country, apparently it’s OK for him to change his nationality, again.
Or maybe he just forgot he once played for Canada and convinced everyone he qualified for the Czech team and nobody noticed until he was already on the roster.
Anyway, the Czechs go into Sochi with a roster that will have an average age of 30 years and two months by the time the Olympic hockey tournament begins. That in and of itself isn’t as much of a surprise as the players the Czechs chose not to include on their roster.
Somehow, a roster that has room for Michal Barinka and Tomas Kaberle on defense does not have any for Jan Hejda, Jakub Kindl, Roman Polak, Andrej Sustr, Radek Martinek or Rostislav Klesla – who have all seen time in the NHL this season. In fact, of the 11 Czechs who have appeared on an NHL blueline this season, only five of them – Marek Zidlicky, Ladislav Smid, Michal Rozsival, Zbynek Michalek and Radko Gudas – were named to the roster.
Up front, the mysteries continue. Jiri Hudler is the top-scoring Czech left winger in the NHL and he was left off the roster, as was Tomas Fleischmann of the Florida Panthers and Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes. There was room, however, for Roman Cervenka, who was a spectacular bust with the Calgary Flames last season. Jiri Novotny, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009 and has averaged a point every other game in the KHL for the past three seasons, is on the roster as well.
In their defense, the Czechs probably would have had 20-year-old NHL rookie Tomas Hertl on their roster had he not been injured this season, if for no other reason than they’d need someone that young to pick up all the pucks after practice.
Perhaps the Czechs are trying to make a point here. There’s a chance they believe that you don’t need a team stacked with NHL talent to win this tournament on the international-sized ice. After all, the Czechs won the gold medal in 1998 in Nagano with 11 players who were not in the NHL at the time. But they had all played together and instantly forged a team chemistry and were familiar with playing on the bigger ice surface.
But that team also had Dominik Hasek in goal and Jaromir Jagr in his prime. This team has Ondrej Pavelec in goal and an Olympic tournament during which Jagr will blow out 42 candles on his birthday cake.
The Czechs are either going to make a lot of people look stupid for underestimating – well, laughing at – them or they’re going to look pretty silly for some of the choices they’ve made. And hey, won’t it be interesting to see Petr Nedved stickhandle and negotiate a walker at the same time?
Here is the Czech roster, followed by ages during the Olympics:
Ondrej Pavelec – 26 years, 5 months
Jakub Kovar – 25 years, 7 months
Alexander Salak – 27 years, 1 month
Marek Zidlicky – 36 years, 11 months
Ladislav Smid – 27 years, 0 months
Michal Barinka – 29 years, 8 months
Lukas Krajicek – 30 years, 11 months
Michal Rozsival – 35 years, 5 months
Zbynek Michalek – 31 years, 1 month
Radko Gudas – 23 years, 8 months
Tomas Kaberle – 34 years, 9 months
Jaromir Jagr – 42 years, 0 months
Patrik Elias – 37 years, 10 months
Tomas Plekanec – 31 years, 3 month
Ales Hemsky – 30 years, 6 months
Jakub Voracek – 24 years, 6 month
Michael Frolik – 26 years, 0 months
Martin Hanzal – 27 years, 0 months
Vladimir Sobotka – 26 years, 7 months
Ondrej Palat – 22 years, 10 months
Milan Michalek – 29 years, 2 months
David Krejci – 27 years, 9 months
Roman Cervenka – 28 years, 2 months
Jiri Novotny – 30 years, 6 months
Petr Nedved – 42 years, 2 months
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.