VOORHEES, N.J. – With tomorrow being the deadline for Olympic rosters to be named, a couple of countries released their 25-man lists a day early and in the process made two Flyers Olympians – one for the first time.
Jake Voracek will attend his first Olympic games as a member of Team Czech Republic and Mark Streit will take part in his fourth Olympiad as a member of Team Switzerland.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Voracek. “Back home in the Czech Republic every kid dreams of it and watches the Olympics on T.V. Even four years ago I was watching it closely on T.V. Every time I would watch I would never think I could be there, but then a few years go by and now I’m part of it and I’m just excited about it.”
|Jake Voracek has played for the Czech Republic in other international tournaments, but this marks his first Olympic berth. |
It’s a big deal for Voracek, 24, to represent his country in the Olympics because of the rich history of Czech hockey. He played for the Czech World Under-18 team, the Czech World Junior team, and three times on the World Championship team, but playing for his country in the Olympics will be so much more important – especially for his parents and older sister, who remember the days of communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia.
As for Voracek, he was born as communism was falling in Europe, so for him the biggest deal was watching the 1998 Czech team win gold by defeating Russia 1-0 in the final.
“It was a huge deal for the entire nation,” Voracek said. “I remember watching it with my entire family. We all were in front of the television. For most people that memory is still there in their minds.”
For Streit, it’s just as exciting now as it was during his first Olympics, back in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“It’s an honor to play for Switzerland again because it’s such a great tournament,” said Streit, who has a realistic shot at being named the team captain. “I’m really excited because it’s a big challenge and the competition is really high.
“In Salt Lake City I was able to attend the opening ceremonies and that was a special moment in my career, but still, I’m honored and blessed.”
Both Voracek and Streit are hoping to make an impact in Sochi, Russia with their teams, which are both medal underdogs for sure, albeit on teams certainly capable of pulling off an upset in the medal round.
“Swiss hockey has come a long way in the last 10-or-15 years,” Streit said. “It’s great to see more and more players
|Mark Streit is an Olympic veteran, making his fourth appearance for Switzerland. He's a good bet to be captain of the Swiss team too. |
playing in the NHL. That’s great for Swiss hockey. It’s good to compete. We’re going to face a lot of good teams there. Our team did excellent at the  World Championships [Silver Medal]. This is going to be a different competition, but I think we can play with confidence because we have some skill and speed and we want to win some games.”
The Czechs won that gold in 1998 in Nagano, Japan and picked up a bronze in 2006 in Turin, Italy, but had a disappointing finish in Vancouver in 2010 pacing seventh, which means they’ll be looking to rebound this year.
“We have a real quality team with a lot of veteran leadership,” Voracek said. “One of the things that everyone has alwas said is that we have always had a great locker room. In a tournament like this, that means a lot when there is chemistry among the players on the team.”
Voracek and Streit make the second and third Flyers to be officially named to their Olympic squads for Sochi. Michael Raffl was named part of the Austrian team last week.
However at least three more Flyers should see their names on rosters when the deadline hits tomorrow as Kimmo Timonen (Finland), Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia) and Claude Giroux (Canada) are expected to be selected as well.
Both Raffl and Erik Gustafsson were full participants in practice Monday, however Matt Read did not practice with the team as his upper body injury is proving to be more problematic than maybe originally expected.
Raffl, assuming he is cleared by doctors and passes his baseline test, should be good to go tomorrow in New Jersey.
Gustafsson said he felt good, but isn’t quite ready, saying he’s still missing that last “10-15 percent” of his ability in his knee to get back into a game.
Gustafsson said he skated on his own for three days, but that today was his first full blown practice. He is targeting a possible Saturday return against Tampa.
Read has been sidelined since leaving the game in Calgary after the first period on Dec. 31. If he doesn’t play tomorrow, he will have missed a full week with his injury.
General manager Paul Holmgren updated their status late this afternoon saying Read and Raffl are day-to-day and Gustafsson is out another 5-7 days.
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