2022 Olympic Men’s Hockey Team Czechia Preview

The Olympics is widely thought of as the most prestigious international hockey tournament. Sadly, NHL players will not be participating this year, much to the chagrin of players like Brad Marchand. Despite the disappointment, Czechia has a strong veteran-heavy roster vying for a chance at Olympic gold.

At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Czechia fell to Canada in the bronze medal game after topping their table in the group stage. Team scoring leaders Michal Řepík and Jan Kovář are returning to the team, and with the addition of David Krejčí, the team is looking good up front.

2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 Czechia
2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 China (The Hockey Writers)

Sadly, there will be no David Pastrňák and Radko Gudas to fill up the score sheet and lay down some bodies at this year’s tournament, but there are still many exciting players to watch.

Czechia Is a Historic Hockey Powerhouse

As with a lot of European countries, the region of Czechia has been under the rule of a number of different powers. Each power was pretty good at hockey, though. Their hockey history began with Bohemia, which was a kingdom within Austria-Hungary. The Bohemian national team won three European Championships out of the four tournaments they participated in.

Then, as the nation of Czechoslovakia, they continued their winning ways. In the World Championships (WC), they earned 34 medals out of 52 tournaments, including an astounding 15 straight between 1969-1985. They also won six gold medals in their history. At the Olympics, they didn’t manage to win gold but still medalled eight times in 17 tournaments.

Now, as Czechia (since 1993), they’ve won 12 medals out of 28 WC, ahead of supposed powerhouses like the USA in that timeframe. This includes a run of six straight medals between 1996-2001. In the Olympics, they’ve earned two medals out of seven tournaments, including the famous gold medal in Nagano in 1998. In that tournament, they famously beat Canada in the semifinals via shootout, with some acrobatic stops from Dominik Hasek along the way. In the finals, they beat Russia when Petr Svoboda scored a blistering slapshot in the third period of a 1-0 win.

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In Czechia, hockey and football (soccer) are their two main sports. Neither are necessarily more popular than the other, but due to the prominence of football worldwide, the Czechs tend to have more success with hockey on the international stage.

Related: 2022 Olympic Men’s Czechia Roster

They are considered as one of the “big-six” hockey powers, along with Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the USA. They may not have the biggest names up and down their roster, but they have always had a few stars and sure know how to win on the international stage. In fact, with their illustrious record, they might be the most underrated team.

Fun Facts About Team Czechia and Its Players

  • There have been 248 Czech-born NHL players all-time.
  • Jaromír Jágr leads Czech-born NHL scoring all-time with 766 goals (third all-time), 1155 assists (fifth all-time), 1921 points (second all-time), and leads the NHL in game-winning goals all-time with 135 (he also has 26 goals and 64 points since retiring from the NHL and joining Rytiri Kladno in Czechia).
  • Vlastimil Bubník is the all-time Olympic scoring leader for Czechia with 22 goals and 37 points in 28 games (although he played for Czechoslovakia)
  • Czechia has retired three numbers, Karel Rachůnek (4), Jan Marek (15), and Josef Vašíček (63), but it’s likely only a matter of time before Jágr’s number 68 is retired as well.
  • Czechia recently dropped the name “Czech Republic” from their jerseys, instead opting for “Česko,” the name of the country in their native language.
  • Dominik Hasek and Václav Nedomanský are the only two Hockey Hall of Famers from Czechia.

Influential People

Ivan Hlinka, the namesake of the prestigious Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, is one of the biggest names in Czech hockey history. He came over to North America to play in the NHL in 1981 and set the Vancouver Canucks rookie scoring record with 60 points in 72 games. The record was later matched by Pavel Bure and broken by Elias Pettersson. He became a national hero in Czechia when he won Olympic gold as coach of their national team in 1998.

Ivan Hlinka was a tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey. He was a great hockey player, a player that many of the current Czech players idolized growing up.

Former Penguins General Manager, Craig Patrick (from ‘Obituary: Ivan Hlinka / Former head coach of Penguins’, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 17 2004)

Václav Nedomanský is famous for being the first Czech player to defect to North America to play hockey. He joined the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association before joining the Detroit Red Wings for most of his career. He amassed 531 points in his 673 games between the two leagues.

Team Czechia Olympic Roster

Team Czechia was announced on Jan. 13, and even though NHL players won’t be attending, there are some big names on the roster.

The biggest name is David Krejčí, who was a star for the Boston Bruins for years, helping them on their way to three Stanley Cup finals, and winning the Cup in 2011. He was a smart centreman, producing 215 goals and 730 points over a 15-year career. He retired from the NHL last year but has continued to play in his native Czechia.

Perhaps the second-best player on the team is Michael Frolík, who played in the NHL for 13 seasons, putting up 159 goals and 384 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The last player with significant NHL experience is Vladimír Sobotka, who put up 53 goals and 171 points in a career spanning 548 games. He was a middle-six winger for most of his career and put up a career-high 33 points in 2013-14.

Vladimir Sobotka Buffalo Sabres
Vladimir Sobotka, Former Buffalo Sabre (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Czechia has some firepower up front, but they lack depth on the back end, without many players with NHL experience. In net, they will likely choose between Roman Will, who played in one NHL game with the Colorado Avalanche, and Patrik Bartošák, a former Los Angeles Kings draft pick who played 32 games with their AHL affiliate.

The roster looks like it should compete for a medal, and the exclusion of NHL players might actually benefit their chances. They will miss big names like Jakub Voráček, but they have a lot of talent from the Kontinental Hockey League, Liiga, and the SHL, as well as their home league, the ExtraLiga in Czechia.

Team Czechia Olympic Roster Snubs

The roster itself is very veteran-heavy, with an average age of 29.8. This is in direct opposition to other countries that have announced teams featuring college players from NCAA, like the USA. Due to their choice to bring older players, there are a number of young players worldwide who might feel like they were snubbed.

24-year-old Filip Chlapík, a former Ottawa Senator, who leads the ExtraLiga in scoring this season with 21 goals and 45 points in 36 games, was mysteriously left off the roster. One reason may be that ExtraLiga is thought of as a slightly sub-par league, but given that it’s their national league, one would think he would have been part of the team.

Filip Chlapik Ottawa Senators
Filip Chlapik, Former Ottawa Senator (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Lukáš Jašek, a former player in the Vancouver Canucks organization and is also 24 years old, is the top Czech-born scorer in Liiga this season, with six goals and 32 points in 32 games. Curiously, he was left off the Olympic roster, while 25-year-old Jiří Smejkal, who sits second in Czech-born points, is heading to Beijing.

Younger prospects like Montreal Canadiens’ Jan Myšák, Minnesota Wild’s Pavel Novák, and Michal Gut are young by tournament standards, but given their production in the Canadian Hockey League this season, they should have been considered for the tournament, especially if other countries are bringing young, flashy players.

On the flip side, one notable player who was likely too old to make the roster, but might have been considered, is former Montreal Canadien Tomáš Plekanec. The 39-year-old is the captain of Rytiri Kladno, playing alongside Jaromír Jágr, and has amassed eight goals and 35 points in 37 games thus far.

Tomas Plekanec Montreal Canadiens
Former Montreal Canadien Tomas Plekanec (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Regardless of the snubs, the roster looks primed for a big tournament, with former NHLers looking to make a statement and some nice depth pieces. For more, keep up to date with our Olympic hockey coverage here.

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