Team Czech Republic capsule
Sun Media

SUN Prediction: 3rd

Who is No. 1?

That's the biggest question looming for Team Czech as they head into the Olympics looking to establish themselves as a force on the world stage ... again.

Will it be Ottawa's Dominik Hasek or Nashville's Tomas Vokoun as the No. 1 netminder for the Czechs as the quest for gold begins? The only certainty: It won't be Milan Hnlicka, who has been the top goalie in the Czech Elite League this season.

It should be noted that Hasek already has a gold medal on his resume from 1998 when the Czechs beat Canada in a shootout in the semi-final and then knocked off the Rusisans. That's why coach Alois Hadarnczik is going to be under tremendous pressure to put Hasek back in the net for one last run. He might be

41-years-old, but he looks

a lot younger in the net.

"I know one thing: I wouldn't want to have to make that choice and that's why they pay the coach," said Minnesota Wild defenceman Filip Kuba, who will play a big role on the club's blueline.

"You look at the record of both those guys and they're both great goalies. (Hasek) has had a great career, he has been there before and he's won gold for our country. (Vokoun) has had a lot of success with Nashville. Obviously, goaltending is going to be one of our strengths. "

There has been a lot of debate in the Czech Republic over who will start.

The belief is Hasek is going to be the No. 1 guy and if he falters then Vokoun will get his chance.

"I know in the Czech Republic right now they're probably talking about the same thing," Hasek said. "I'm going to be ready to play and we'll see what happens at the Games. Obviously, this is a big thing in the Czech Republic. Hockey is the No. 1 sport next to soccer. Winning gold would mean a lot in our country."

That's why having a revitalized Jaromir Jagr in the lineup is only going to help the club.

Martin Straka and Vaclav Prospal are also going to be relied on heavily to help the Czechs achieve their goal of winning gold.

"Nobody favoured us in 1998 and I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to think we are the favourites this time either," Hasek said. "We're going to have a good team. Of course, it helps that Jagr is playing well, but he's only one player and it's going to take the whole team if we're going to be successful.

"We really want to win gold. We just have to play well in a short tournament. All you have to do is have success for 10 days. That's not a lot of time and we feel like with our team we've got a good shot at bringing home the gold. That would be fun."