Nedved's 'strange' trip back to Olympics

Petr Nedved takes part in Czech Republic practice in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014. (AL CHAREST/QMI...

Petr Nedved takes part in Czech Republic practice in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

SOCHI - He tromped off the ice at the training rink in Bolshoy Ice Dome, his helmet pushed back on his head, sweat-drenched hair flecked with grey protruding from underneath the blue plastic.

"You look like you did when you were 17," a visitor joked to 42-year-old Petr Nedved, here to complete a self-described "strange" circle at the Olympics, playing for the Czech Republic 20 years after winning a silver medal representing Canada in Lillehammer.

"Not sure about that ... grey hair," said Nedved to a group of Canadian reporters. "I got my teeth ... ", he said, flashing a smile.

"I knew you guys didn't think I was still playing. Here I am."

Yes, he is.

Nedved is a point-a-game player with Liberec in the Czech League, more than six seasons removed from his last NHL experience with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006-07.

His inclusion on the Czech Olympic team might have surprised some who didn't even realize he was still playing.

A love for the game keeps him going at 42 and has him poised now for a dramatic finale on sport's biggest stage.

"You said it right there. That's the thing. I still love the game. I love the competition. I still have the drive. This is it for me. This is my last season in my career. I kind of feel that I could probably play maybe for a couple more years. It's time," he said.

"I never thought at the end of my career, after 20 years, I would go to the Olympic Games. This is kind of a nice way to end my career."

He defected from Czechoslovakia to Canada as a 17-year-old at the Mac's midget tournament in Calgary, starting a relationship with Canada that saw him win that silver medal in the 1994 Olympics when Canada lost the gold to Sweden on Peter Forsberg's infamous (at least in Canada) shootout goal.

He is Czech now, as far as hockey goes, but he still has his Canadian passport.

He still has feelings for Canada, as much as they have led to him feeling conflicted then, and now.

"My whole life has been a strange journey," he said. "Nothing kind of new for me. It's a nice feeling. It was a great honour to play for Canada. I really, really enjoyed it. I think we exceeded our expectations for that tournament. I'm not downplaying our team, but we weren't favoured to bring a medal.

"We lost the game in a shootout. It's like a sweet, bitter memory from that game. Every time you lose in a shootout, it's kind of frustrating. I enjoyed every moment playing for Canada. It was awesome. I'm not going to lie to you. Now playing for my own country where I'm from, it's a special meaning to me, especially at my age and the last season of my career, I couldn't ask for anything better than that."

Nedved remembers what he felt like when he sat in the victorious Canadian dressing room after the quarter-final elimination of the Czech Republic in 1994. It was a moment he wished he wouldn't have to face, the victory with his new country at the expense of his modified old one.

"I kind of remember in the dressing room that celebration," he recalled. "It was like a mixed feeling for me. But you know what? You're a professional. It happened like that. I never had a regret when we were going to play the Czech team. Before the tournament I was kind of hoping that wouldn't happen, but, you know, the hockey gods wanted to, so we played them. I didn't have regrets."

And if the hockey gods decide the Czechs must play the Canadians, his old/new country against his new/old country?

"I guess it would be a little special," he said, "and hopefully we will return the favour to them."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


Photos