The Czech Republic will be sending a team to the Para ice hockey tournament at the Paralympic Winter Games for the fourth time next month, but this time around they will have a whole new fanbase.
As the hosts of the last two World Championships, the Czechs have attracted thousands of new spectators and viewers in the country to the sport, having boasted a record 65,000 spectators throughout the Ostrava 2019 World Championships A-Pool before the pandemic hit.
The Czechs named their roster for Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games this week, and it will be led by star forward Michal Geier, the Most Valuable Player at the Ostrava 2019 Worlds with seven goals and four assists, and a dynamic duo of goaltenders in Michal Vapenka and Martin Kudela.
Vapenka will be competing in his fifth Paralympics in the 18th year as a national team member, while Kudela will be representing his country in his second Games.
IN SEARCH OF THE MEDAL ROUND
In addition to Geier, the forwards on the squad will include: Zdenek Habl, David Palat, Zdenek Krupicka, Miroslav Novotny, Vaclav Hecko, Alex Ohar, Filip Vesely, Patrik Sedlacek, and Jan Frolik.
The team’s defenders will consist of: Pavel Kubes, Radek Zelinka, Pavel Dolezal, Karel Wagner, and Jiri Raul.
The Czech Republic has competed in Para ice hockey at the last three Paralympics, finishing fifth in 2010 and 2014, and sixth in 2018. It is still in search of making the medal round for the first time.
The Czechs were fifth at the most recent World Championships last year, and placed fourth in 2019.
They will compete in Group B in the preliminary round of the Paralympics together with Italy, Slovakia, and China. The Czech Republic will begin its Paralympic campaign against Italy on 5 March.