PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Ottawa Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek and New York Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr highlight a deep, veteran Czech Republic hockey team that was announced Thursday and is expected to challenge Canada for Olympic gold in Turin, Italy in February.
The Czechs won the gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan -- the first that allowed professional players. Four years ago in Salt Lake City, however, the Czechs fell to Russia in the quarterfinals as Canada went on to win the gold.
Jagr, who leads the NHL with 51 points, and Hasek are among eight players remaining from the Czech lineup in Nagano. Others who won gold in 1998 who were named to the 23-man squad Thursday include forwards Martin Rucinsky and Martin Straka of the New York Rangers, Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche and Robert Lang of the Detroit Red Wings.
Notable players not named to the team include Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer, who suffered a seizure during a game against the Nashville Predators last month and is out
indefinitely, and New Jersey Devils center Patrik Elias, who is recovering from hepatitis.
The Swedish team appears to be loaded up front, boasting forwards Peter Forsberg of the Philadelphia Flyers, Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, Mats Sundin of the Toronto
Maple Leafs and Markus Naslund of the Vancouver Canucks. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund, both of whom have played in two previous Olympics, are the key defensemen on the squad.
Right wing Miroslav Satan of the New York Islanders, who has played in two previous Olympics, is the most veteran member of the Slovakian team, which also appears strong offensively with forward Marian Hossa and Peter Bondra of the Atlanta Thrashers, Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild, Richard Zednik of the Montreal Canadiens, Pavol Demitra of the Los Angeles Kings and Marek Svatos of the Avalanche.
Finland's squad is led by Montreal Canadiens center and captain Saku Koivu, forwards Sami Kapanen of the Flyers and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and goaltender Kari Lehtonen of the Thrashers.
"It is in the best interest of the Calgary Flames that I use this opportunity to ensure I am totally recovered for the NHL playoff drive," Kiprusoff said. "I have always been very proud
to represent my country in international competition and I'm disappointed that I will not be joining them at the Olympics in Italy."
Though apparently lacking offensively, Switzerland will be backstopped by David Aebischer of the Avalanche and Martin Gerber of the Hurricanes, while Latvia will be led by Mighty Ducks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh and former NHL goaltender Arturs Irbe.