Hemmer plays way onto roster

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- When the Czech national team was first selected, the name of Ales Hemsky was noticeable by its absence.

But the Edmonton Oiler led Pardubice to the ExtraLeague title, the Czech version of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It was a bit of a surprise, then, to show up here and find him on the team.

"He had a great playoffs," said Oiler teammate Radek Dvorak.

"He had an OK regular season, but in the playoffs he was unbelievable.

"He was unstoppable," he added of the 14-points he produced in the playoffs.

"The way he played in the ExtraLeague forced them to put him on this team," he said of the forward who struggled last year in Edmonton and was cut by the Czechs prior to playing host to the IIHF World Hockey Championships here last year.

"I had a good season, then we won the playoffs," said Hemsky. "I was played a lot in the playoffs. It gave me a lot of confidence.

"After the playoffs they picked me to the team. They gave me a week off and then I joined the team," he said of being with the Czech nationals for the first time.

Hemsky and Jaromir Jagr were both rested for Canada's 2-1 win over the Czechs here last night but he says he'll be on a line with Josef Vasicek and Radim Vrbata for the tournament.

Petr Svoboda, the agent (and former Czech Playboy publisher) who splits his time between here and Edmonton, said it might be a new, improved Hemsky who will be headed back to the Oilers whenever the NHL resumes play.

"He took Martin Havlat's job," said Svoboda, saying the Ottawa Senator had a poor season bouncing from Znojmo to Dynamo Moscow and back to Sparta Prague, and didn't figure to make the first two lines despite leading the Czech in scoring with six points in five games at the World Cup of Hockey.

"They figured Hemsky could play on any one of the four lines and that wasn't true with Havlat," said Svoboda.

Hemsky said having a year at home in the Czech Republic should be good for him.

"It was great to be home after four years," he said. "It was good to spend time with my family.

"I was happy about that. It was good for me, I think, to have time over here. Now I can't wait for the NHL."

Dvorak said he enjoyed the year at home from a personal point of view but had a difficult time adjusting back to the game over here.

"It was different," he said. "It was good from a family point of view with an 18-month-old baby. My wife enjoyed staying with her mother. But for me, it was different hockey."

Not that Dvorak, a Czech team veteran, isn't dialed up to play in the IIHF World Hockey Championships, which begin for his outfit with a game against Switzerland Sunday in Vienna.

The Czechs dominated the tournament here in Prague last year until they ran into a hot goalie, Edmonton Oiler teammate Ty Conklin, and lost the quarter-final crossover elimination game in a shootout.

"Everybody knows it's just one game," he said of having to live that one down.

"We had a great tournament but we lost one game in a shootout. Canada could have a great tournament this year and lose one game in a shootout. You can go against any of the top teams and lose a game like that in a shootout.

"It was kind of tough. The fans here were mad, a little bit. We were at home and we were expected to win.

"But this is another chance this year to make up for that.

"We have a similar team to last year and we know what we did bad."


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