Before the Czechs’ first game of the current WJC, assistant coach of the Czech team Marian Jelinek said the goal of his team was to get a medal, and to do so his team would have to count on two key players, veteran Jiri Hudler and young goalie phenom Marek Schwarz.
With a mere total of three points after the round robin, the Detroit Red Wings Jiri Hudler has surely not presented the production the Czech staff expected from him. He will have to improve his contribution if the Czechs want to reach their goal to win a medal. Schwarz, on the other hand, has been very good.
Coach Jelinek said the 17-year-old Schwarz is a new star in Czech Republic. “Sport journalists talk about him as the new Hasek,” said Jelinek. During a previous game in the WJC, an anonymous NHL scout used the exact same comparison. Another compared young Czech goalie to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Marek Schwarz has not made any miracles in the tournament. After the first tour of the WJC, his record includes a 8-0 win against Ukraine, a 2-3 defeat against Finland, a 2-1 win over the Swiss and a 2-5 loss to Canada.
After the close game against Switzerland he said it has been a difficult game for him because he did not receive many shots. Asked what he thought to be compared to Dominik Hasek, he became very shy, had his eyes looking to the floor and answered he doesn’t agree he should be compared to Hasek. “I have my own style,” he commented.
Schwarz said he has no idol in particular and just want to be himself. Neither has he a favorite team in NHL. What are his strengths according to him? “I have fast legs and a good glove,” he said via a translator.
The young prospect eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft is a man of few words. He is the kind of athlete who prefers to show off on the ice than in front of microphones and cameras.
After the 2-5 defeat against Canada in the fourth game, he was not defeated mentally. He said he would have liked to see the shot of the fifth goal again. He is right not to be shy about his performance against the very impressive Canadian machine. The Canadians came off very strong and the 5 goals that they scored on only 26 shots are not an indication of the performance of the Czech goalie.
At the time of writing, the Czechs are not yet qualified on the medal group and have to count on the Finns to not be placed in the relegation group.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002. At the 2003 WJC, he collaborated for the Montreal newspaper La Presse. This year, he is collaborating with Radio-Canada.