SUN Hockey Pool

Nedved used to overcoming challenges

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Petr Nedved realizes this might be his last chance to rekindle his NHL career and that it'll be a challenge, but the lanky Czech isn't the type to back away from that sort of thing.

It was 18 years ago this week when Nedved defected from his homeland at the Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary, leaving his family behind to pursue an NHL career, so the task of trying to extend it in his second stint with the Edmonton Oilers isn't going to make his knees buckle.

"Back then, I had a lot of confidence in myself," Nedved said. "I felt that was the right decision at that time.

"I wasn't politically involved in any way back home with anything, but I sure didn't agree with some of the things that were going on. The decision wasn't based on that. It just made it a lot easier to make that decision (to defect)."

There were no fewer than five camera crews and 20 reporters waiting for Nedved when he arrived at Rexall Place yesterday afternoon. A daunting bit of glare from the media spotlight - unless you know about the public circus Nedved faced when he defected and joined the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL as a 17-year-old so many years ago.

"My No. 1 thing was to play in the NHL," Nedved said. "I had that dream and it came true ... I have to say I was scared not knowing what the future was going to bring. There was a lot of questions.

"You have some bumps on the way, and it's been a pretty bumpy ride for the last little bit, but that stuff is life."

What Nedved, 35, has going for him is that Craig MacTavish isn't going to try to reinvent his game.

MacTavish, of course, wants to get rid of the horrid minus-20 rating Nedved brings from Philadelphia, but he still intends to use him in an offensive role and on the power play.

That wasn't the case with the Flyers to start this season. Back then, coach Ken Hitchcock informed Nedved he wanted to turn him into a defensive centre, a shut-down guy.

Talk about a square peg and a round hole.

"I'm very happy to be back," Nedved said.

"It's been kind of frustrating for me this year, so I'm looking forward to coming in here and playing."


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