Czech hockey team gears up for World Championships in Germany
The Czech hockey team is gearing up for the Ice Hockey World Championship in Germany, departing for Mannheim on Friday. A day earlier the team dispatched Belarus in a final warm-up match 5-2. What will it take for the Czechs to do well in Germany, after a disappointing finish earlier this year at the Vancouver Olympics? We look at a number of key factors.
For one, the Czechs will have to gel as a team and take their cue, many observers are pointing out, from two of the team’s key figures: one is the legendary forward Jaromír Jágr who – at 38 – is still playing well and has much needed experience, an inspiration for a team otherwise featuring many new names.
For the Czechs to do well in Germany, the players will also have to rally around Tomáš Vokoun, the NHL goalie who was one of the few Czechs who really shined at Vancouver. In the final pre-Championship match he let in a soft goal against Belarus, but otherwise appeared solid. At the top of his game, Vokoun can stop the best of them, and at 33 he also has plenty of experience, knowing how to handle big games. Obviously, if both do well, the team as a whole will benefit.
After that, much will depend on the solidness of the defence, leaving including Michal Rozsíval, of the New York Rangers or Michal Barinka, who plays for Vítkovice. They, and fellow players will have to communicate well with Vokoun, to pick up loose pucks and clear rebounds when necessary.
As for opening challenges? The Czechs, in Group C, will first face France, then Norway – widely seen as compulsory wins - in the group stage and their first real test will come next Thursday, when they face the traditional powerhouse Swedes. Overall, in the tournament, bookies are, not surprisingly naming Russia and Canada as the two toughest teams to beat.