Amidst whispers and rumours that there is dissention in the ranks, the Czech Republic hockey team has displayed the most unified of fronts in public.
There has been plenty of talk surrounding the Czechs here at the IIHF World Junior Championship concerning a rift between the players who play junior in Canada and those who still play at home. However, the players themselves have passionately denied all allegations.
The rumours began at the team’s selection camp, when Head Coach Yadislav Holik made his final cuts and surprised everyone by cutting many CHL players, most of whom seemed sure-shots to make the team. The most notable cuts were Kamil Kreps and Jan Platil, two gifted scorers who rank in the top 20 in Ontario Hockey League scoring.
The dismissal of Kreps and Platil prompted a quiet wave of rumours to circulate that were critical of Holik’s decisions. Apparently, the coach’ disapproved of players who ‘jumped ship’ and left their homeland to develop and learn the game in Canada. Holik was unavailable for comment, but everyone involved with the team was quick to bring the rumours to a resounding halt.
Those who play here in Canada and those still playing at home could not stress enough the camaraderie that the team exhibits. "I think we are one team, and that we have great coaches," said captain Lukas Chmiler, one of the players who plays in the Czech Republic.
"If anything I think it helps to have the guys who play here in Canada on the team," Chmiler said. "They are used to playing in these types of [smaller] arenas and used to playing in front of 10,000 fans. I think the coach knows that, and he would never cut players just because they moved to Canada."
Those on the team who do play junior hockey here also felt confident that the team was picked with complete justice. "We’ve got the right guys here," said Petr Taticek matter-of-factly. "I think the coaches did a great job. I think that they picked up the right guys and created a good chemistry. So far it’s worked very well for us."
Be that as it may, the question of why potential superstars Kreps and Platil were cut from the team still remain. What most people did not know was that Platil was not cut from the team--he had been battling a stomach virus throughout the selection camp and left the team on his own accord. He has since recovered, and is back with his club team, the Barrie Colts, where he recorded a goal and four assists in a game Sunday night against the Oshawa Generals. Kreps has also been playing well of late for his team, the Brampton Battalion, yet, his exclusion remains a mystery.
"We know each other from the last few years because we played in Czech. We all played together for two or three years back in Czech (on the Under-16 and Under-18 teams) so we are very close as a team," said star-defenseman Lucas Krajicek, "I think the guys still in Czech wish they could be here to learn the style and the English."
The other members of the team reiterated Krajicek’s words, saying that the exposure to North America was enviable mainly for the cultural exposure. "No one is mad because other guys are here," said Chmiler, "I think each boy in the world who plays hockey wants to some day play in the NHL. When you start to play when you are young, you are in a league, but you always want to move up to the next league. When you make that league, you want to move to the next. The NHL is always there--you can’t not think about it. The guys who are here in Canada came because they thought it would help them get there, and I play at home in the senior league because I think that’s my best shot to get there."
Despite his hesitant English, Chmiler’s words could not be any clearer. There is no resentment on his team. There is only a dressing room full of dreams and aspirations.