Earlier this week, hockey fans hoped that the Czech national team had finally found its legs in a 7-0 drubbing of Norway. But that was as good as things would get. Although the Czechs avoided the embarrassment of an early exit and made the quarterfinal, they again faced tournament’s biggest surprise this year, the Swiss, and were defeated.
Players and staff of the Czech national hockey team obviously will not look back at this year’s tournament fondly: with the exception of Wednesday’s match against Norway, there was precious little to write home about. There were losses to Canada and Sweden, less than inspiring performances against Slovenia and Denmark, and no major scalps. Instead, it was the Czech squad that was upended not once but twice by the Swiss national team. If the latter are a squad reinvented, the Czech team, critics have suggested, are the opposite: a shadow of those that preceded it. Coach Alois Hadamczik admits this year things largely went south:
“If I compare it to the tournaments last year and the year before, when we beat the United States and also Sweden, we obviously can’t be happy with how things worked out. Right now I can’t really think about ‘what ifs’: it simply wasn’t our day. Members of the team were well-prepared and we had good players and they did their best. But the whole season was tough, we had injuries, and the result was not the one we wanted.”
The coach also said he understood that he and the team would come under criticism. Whereas, in past years the squad was praised for clinching medals, this year, he said, would be the opposite - and not without justification. The Czech team coach again:
“As the coach I am responsible, along with players, for the results so I expect we will come under fire. Unfortunately we can’t change anything now. We will have to begin thinking about the next big tournament, the Winter Olympics. We will have to think about who to name to the roster but that is still far off. The new NHL season will be on when we consider these questions, and we will have to look at who is on the injury list and how things have developed.”
Some have already said that Hadamczik should be let go, something not at all likely to happen, as until now, many have been happy with his leadership. On Friday, the president of the Czech Ice Hockey Association Tomáš Kral said that he understood fans’ disappointment, but made clear – in his view – that calls for the coach’s head were unwarranted. As for the Czech team, the squad officially finishes in 7th spot in the standings – a single point ahead of Slovakia.
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