Monday, May 24, 2010

Ice-hockey: our golden Czech boys

In the world IIHF ice-hockey championship, Czechoslovakia plus Czechia have received 44 medals in total, close to 46 medals of Canada and ahead of the Swedish 42 medals and Soviet and Russian 41 medals.

Well, yes, most of our medals have traditionally been bronze medals.

Since the Velvet Divorce in 1993, Czechia has specialized in the gold medals. The gold medal they just won was the 6th one - and I am not even counting the Olympic victory in Nagano. As a federal country, Czechoslovakia has previously earned 6 additional gold medals.

Despite these cold facts, some (or most) people in the West - and sometimes in Czechia itself - hesitate to consider the Czech team as a favorite. Well, I may be affected by some national bias but I beg to differ. I have considered our team to be the most likely one to win the gold - and I was right. ;-)

Nevertheless, the Czech team was constantly on the edge while it was playing through the whole tournament: it has incredibly lost the matches against a 7-TeV-powered Switzerland and Norway. However, it has won all the other matches.




The last one, against Russia, took place a few hours ago. The matches against Russia are still a little bit special. Only the older generation remembers the 1969 matches of Czechoslovakia against the Soviet Union, a few months after the Soviet-led occupation (their "fraternal help" against "counter-revolution"). Of course, we won these matches and the celebrations gradually transformed into intense anti-Soviet rallies.



First Czecho Slovak Superstar Mr Martin Chodúr: Let's Celebrate

The Czech team has played as a team - supported by an excellent goalie, Tomáš Vokoun (even though, to please the hosts, the German goalie was picked as the best goalie of the tournament). The collective, organized, friendly character included Jaromír Jágr who used to be a very individualist player but he seems to genuinely enjoy the new team-based style of playing. He wasn't necessarily exceptional during the tournament - but try to compare him with other players who are over 38 years old to appreciate how incredible he continues to be.

Even though Jágr was "just" a generic player in our team, his celebrity status is amazing. He still shows some unusual skills, is able to attract lots of people on the street as well as lots of players of the opposing team on the ice. And he is much more talkative and charismatic than others when he is interviewed by the journalists.

In the semifinals, Sweden was ahead of us, 2:1, fifteen seconds before the end of regulation - when we lost a face-off and things looked hopeless. However, the Swedes's victory in the face-off led to some chaos in their game and eight seconds before the end of the third period, we tied to 2:2. At that moment, it wasn't shocking that Sweden was psychologically down. Surprisingly, they survived the overtime - even though we outscored them 7:2 in the shots on the goal. Nevertheless, the Czechs were better in the penalty shootouts - using pretty much the same players and strategy as in the penalty shootouts against Finland in the quarter-finals a day or two earlier.

The final match was the fifth match in a row that the Czechs had to unconditionally win not to be eliminated from the chance to acquire the gold - and they won all of them.

Before the final match, team Russia had won 27 matches in a row. The probability that this occurs by chance equals 1 in 2^{27} which is 1 in 130 million. So at the 99.9999993% confidence level, you may say that it's not a coincidence that they won all these matches. However, even if it is not a coincidence that they have won all of them, it still apparently doesn't imply that they can also beat the Czech team. ;-) After all, they've had some trouble during the semi-finals with the Germans, too.



Czech president Václav Klaus (69-) is a great athlete, too.

But the Czech national coach, Vladimír Růžička, ultimately decided to give much more space to younger players - nine members of the team were complete newbies. So Klaus was only watching the victorious game as a guest (in Germany). But at the end, he took his car, drove it onto the ice (Škoda was also the main sponsor of the tournament), and decorated the players with the golden medals. He has also participated in the wild festivities in the locker room, much like he did when we won the gold in 2005 in Vienna (as well as 1996 in Vienna). ;-)

The video above shows that the president drank two big 30-liter cups of alcohol in the locker room. The video also includes some swearing (that appeared on TV) as well as traditional intelligent rituals such as "who is not jumping is not Czech - hop hop hop". :-) The players predict that "this would be a scandal/scrape" (well, if more literally translated from Czech, "it would be a through-shit".

The Czech team apparently plays very well in German-speaking countries which offer a kind of "semi-home environment" to us.

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