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Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Czech Republic loses Turek, gains Hnilicka

ESPN.com news services

Wed., Feb. 13
Roman Turek's announcement is surprising only because of the late notice. To me, it indicates he really wanted to play for the Czechs, but decided at the 11th hour that he needs rest if he's going to help the Calgary Flames make a run at a playoff spot. He's started 24 of their last 25 games and will likely get every start down the stretch, which includes a nine-game, 15-day road trip. Though he's been nagged by knee and shoulder injuries, it's unlikely he would have opted out if he didn't think the Czechs were in good hands with Dominik Hasek and Roman Cechmanek.
CALGARY -- Goaltender Roman Turek won't play for the Czech Republic in the Olympics.

Turek has withdrawn from the Olympics in order to recover from chronic injuries that could hurt him during the final three months of the NHL season, the Calgary Flames announced Wednesday.

The Czech Republic later named Thrashers netminder Milan Hnilicka as Turek's replacement.

"I am honored to have been selected to represent my country at the Olympics," Turek said. "My decision to step aside was difficult but I believe that it is the best decision for me personally as well for the Czech Republic Hockey Team and the Calgary Flames.

"I will use this opportunity to recuperate and be ready for the post-Olympic stretch in the NHL which is very important for me and the Calgary Flames."

Hnilicka was going to spend his Olympic break in the Caribbean. Now, he's heading to Utah.

Even though it's a lot warmer in the Cayman Islands -- Hnilicka's original destination during the break -- he didn't balk at a chance to play for his country. He planned to board a flight Thursday morning to Salt Lake City, one day before the Czechs play their first game against Germany.

"It's a slight change in plans," Hnilicka said in a telephone interview from Atlanta. "But that's OK."

Hnilicka was a backup at the 1998 Olympics, but he didn't play as Dominik Hasek led the Czechs to a surprising gold medal. Hasek and Philadelphia's Roman Cechmanek are the team's top two goalies.

"I don't know what's going to happen," said Hnilicka, who led the Czechs to their third straight world championship last year. "I didn't expect anything, to be honest. This all came as a surprise. Obviously, it's a very pleasant surprise."