Catching up with Kaberle at the Olympics

Oh, hey, Tomas Kaberle is playing for the Czech Republic at the Sochi Olympics. (DAVE ABEL/QMI...

Oh, hey, Tomas Kaberle is playing for the Czech Republic at the Sochi Olympics. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The days leading to the Olympic men's hockey tournament have turned into a "where are they now?" kind of thing.

After catching up with Petr Nedved, the 42-year-old silver medallist for Canada at the 1994 Lillehammer Games who will play in Sochi for the Czech Republic, look, there's Tomas Kaberle.

The former Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens defenceman is here to represent the Czech Republic as well.

Kaberle was bought out of the remaining year of his contract with the Habs after coach Michel Therrien used him for fewer than a dozen games last season.

"We talked about it with (GM Marc) Bergevin and (Therrien and his staff). Obviously, I was always the extra guy. I got only 10 games. What can you do? I gave my best and it happens sometimes. A lot of players got bought out last season with the new deal we signed with the NHL and the salary cap went down. I was the guy who went out and I have no hard feelings about it," said Kaberle, who played 12 seasons with the Leafs before being traded to Boston in 2011.

After signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, he was traded to the Habs.

While Kaberle is accepting of the fact his NHL days could be over, he's using these Games to pursue something in addition to a medal.

"I feel like I can still play," he said, "and I've got a chance to prove it right here. That's my goal."

Nobody in the NHL thought Kaberle could still play before this season. After contemplating a couple of offers in the Kontinental Hockey League, Kaberle opted to play at home in the Czech Republic with Kladno, a team owned by New Jersey Devils star Jaromir Jagr, who will be Kaberle's teammate here.

"It wasn't easy, obviously. I still left the doors open and I said I always wanted to play where I started towards the end of my career so I decided to stay in Kladno. I had a couple of choices in Russia as well and I decided at the last second to stay home," he said.

With Nedved and Jagr, who will turn 42 during these Games, the 35-year-old was asked if he feels young here.

"I guess," said Kaberle, "and (Jagr) also will play another Olympics, the next one, so it's good. He's feeling good. He's been showing it in the NHL. He's the leader of the New Jersey Devils team. I'm sure he's looking forward to it. He's all about hockey. He doesn't think about anything else."

Kaberle sees the Czech Republic flying a little bit under the radar here. There weren't high expectations for them.

"Sometimes it's better to stay at the back and listen to who they are expecting to win. Russia, Canada, they have high expectations over here and anybody can beat anyone. That's the great thing about hockey. Everybody has got a chance.

"(The Czech team) is a mix of players, a lot of young guys, older guys, good chemistry. We've got great goalies and that makes such a huge difference in a tournament like this. You've got to get momentum right away. It could be only four, five, six games and you have to get ready right away. We have only two practices and jump right in it.

"I think we have a chance like everybody else. There are so many good teams and every little mistake is going to make a difference. We've got Sweden, Swiss and Latvia the first three games. That's going to be a great test for us. The next games matter the most."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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