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Team Czech Republic
Marc Ciampa
February 13th, 2002

The biggest question surrounding the Czech Republic 2002 Team: How do you top 1998's performance?

Head coach Ivan Hlinka brought a bunch of no-name players from the Czech league, a collection of NHLers and an airtight defensive system and completely shut down USA, Canada and Russia in three consecutive outings.

This year the Czech Republic brings a team that is made up of primarily NHLers and the moniker of defending Gold medallists to the tournament. It's going to be that much more difficult to repeat because of that. Goaltender Dominik Hasek even acknowledged this in a recent interview.

NO.   PLAYER   Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   Birth Date   Team 
x Milan Hnilicka G 6'1 195 6/25/73 Atlanta (NHL)
3 Roman Hamrlik D 6'2 215 4/12/74 NY Islanders (NHL)
6 Jaroslav Spacek D 5'11 198 2/11/74 Chicago (NHL)
9 Martin Havlat RW 6'1 178 4/19/81 Ottawa (NHL)
10 Pavel Patera C 6'1 181 9/6/71 Minnesota (NHL)
13 Pavel Kubina D 6'3 213 4/15/77 Tampa Bay (NHL)
15 Tomas Kaberle D 6'2 190 3/2/78 Toronto (NHL)
16 Petr Cajanek LW 6'1 177 10/18/75 Zlin (Czech)
17 Petr Sykora RW 6'0 190 11/19/76 New Jersey (NHL)
19 Radek Dvorak RW 6'1 200 3/9/77 NY Rangers (NHL)
20 Robert Lang C 6'2 216 12/19/70 Pittsburgh (NHL)
21 Robert Reichel C 5'10 185 6/25/71 Toronto (NHL)
23 Roman Cechmanek G 6'3 176 3/2/71 Philadelphia (NHL)
24 Milan Hejduk RW 5'11 185 2/14/76 Colorado (NHL)
25 Patrik Elias LW 6'1 195 4/13/76 New Jersey (NHL)
26 Martin Rucinsky LW 6'1 205 3/11/71 Dallas (NHL)
29 Michal Sykora D 6'5 225 7/5/73 Pardubice (Czech)
30 Jiri Dopita LW 6'4 230 2/12/68 Philadelphia (NHL)
38 Jan Hrdina C 6'0 200 2/5/76 Pittsburgh (NHL)
39 Dominik Hasek G 6'2 180 1/29/65 Detroit (NHL)
41 Martin Skoula D 6'2 195 10/28/79 Colorado (NHL)
42 Richard Smehlik D 6'4 222 1/23/70 Buffalo (NHL)
68 Jaromir Jagr RW 6'2 235 2/15/72 Washington (NHL)

"It's going to be a big tournament," he said. "And of course, (repeating as gold medalists) is always possible. But now, with Mario Lemieux back, Canada will be much better."

Strengths

The biggest advantage the Czech Republic has is in goal. Hasek may not be quite as dominant as he was back in 1998, but he is still one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. They also boast the league's top forward when healthy and motivated Jaromir Jagr.

Weaknesses

The team's defence is comprised largely of defencemen who are 5-6 on the depth chart of their respective clubs. Beyond Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Kaberle, there isn't much to offer in the way of world-class defencemen. Martin Skoula is an outstanding prospect but likely in over his head in an international tournament such as this one.

History

In 1998, Czech Republic won their first ever Gold in Men's Hockey, defeating Canada 2-1 in a shootout and then defeating Russia 1-0 in the deciding game. They also won Bronze in 1992 in Lillehammer and Silver in 1984 in Sarajevo as Czechoslovakia.

Keys to Victory

The key to victory for the Czech Republic is simple. They need to limit the opponent's offensive chances, and they need Hasek to come up huge whenever that can't be done. They're also going to need some offensive contribution from the likes of Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Robert Lang, Radek Dvorak and Robert Reichel. If the team depends on Jagr to carry their offensive load,

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