Sunday, 8 April 2012

The end of the road for two Czech greats?

The conclusion of the Extraliga semi-finals have not only created a huge buzz around the final featuring surprise package Kometa Brno, but also after news that two of the best Czech players in modern years could have played their last game. Regular season scoring leader Petr Nedvěd has been coy with the press regarding his future, and although it would be a surprise for the 40 year old to retire after his brilliant season, it looks like he won't return to Liberec. In an interview with MF Dnes following his teams Game 6 loss to Pardubice, Nedvěd gave no indication of his plans for next season, stating: "I'm frustrated and tired. During the off-season I will think and see how I feel." (source)

Petr Nedvěd could be on his way back to Prague...
Photo: Jaroslav Appeltauer
Nedvěd, who returned to the national team during the Euro Hockey Tour may be making his first appearance at a IIHF World Championship this coming May, as all signs point to head coach Alois Hadamczik making the Liberec captain a member of his squad. It appears that Nedvěd is relishing the possible chance to lead the Czech Republic to World Championship glory, as once again speaking with MF Dnes, he said, "The coach can call and we will solve the problems.  Although I feel the bitterness of defeat, I want to go for the championship."  Nedvěd scored 5 goals in 6 EHT games this season.

Although retirement is certainly a possibility for the 40 year old forward, it seems that he is looking to finish his career elsewhere from Liberec, although he made sure to point out that he would not rule out the possibility of returning to the White Tigers. One possibility, which has been talked about in the media following Liberec's elimination was that their captain leaving to join Lev Praha, who will compete in the KHL from next season. Whilst Nedvěd turned down advances from Dinamo Minsk in the off-season, the chance to earn a better wage whilst living in Prague may be appealing, although the other side of the argument is whether or not the 40 year old will relish the prospect of playing in a league which stretches across half the world's surface.

Straka faces a difficult summer, with an aging squad
and the prospect of losing a number of big names.
Photo: Milan Podpera.
Another stalwart of Czech hockey whose future is in doubt is Plzeň's Martin Straka. Following their defeat to Kometa Brno in the semi-finals, the Plzeň fans spent minutes chanting the name of their clubs owner and player-coach, who applauded his fans with a aura of resignation about him. However, we will have to wait a few weeks before we hear anything regarding his future, as Straka has obligations to fill with his owner's cap on, as big names such as Radek Duda are still unsigned for next season. Straka also faces problems regarding his aging team, as an article on (source) hints that Jiří Hanzlík and Jiří Vykoukal, both 38 years of age, could both be hanging up the skates.

Straka, a member of the 1998 Nagano Gold Medal team is now 39 years of age, cut a forlorn figure on the bench following Kometa's thrashing of his team in Game 5. With all his other duties as the figurehead of the Plzeň organisation, it remains to be seen whether or not the former Pittsburgh Penguin and New York Ranger will return in a playing capacity. Straka, who was another tipped to join the Czech Republic World Championship squad ruled himself out of the running. In an article on Nova Sport's website, he said, "I'm tired, and my performances have been poor. Someone else deserves the championship place..... Team leaders are there to score goals, but I only scored two in the playoffs."

It's been a rocky road for the Indians, as they have been consistently the best team in the regular season over the past three years, but all they have to show for this is one series win, which was this year in a thrilling seven game series with Zlín. Straka loves his hockey club, but it is entirely plausible that we could have seen the last of him, at least on the ice.

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