Radek Dvorak wants to set the record straight: he never said he wanted to leave Edmonton.
Radek Dvorak never said he wanted to leave the Edmonton Oilers.
In a wide-ranging interview with the official Czech hockey federation site, hokej.cz, Dvorak said:
"Im doing everything to make sure I have a good year, similar to my previous successful seasons. I talked to Edmontons management and they told me they were interested in me. I am thinking of other offers, too. I hear from (a journalist) that my agent Rich Winter told the Edmonton Journal that I do not want to play for Edmonton. I dont know why he said it and hell have to explain it to me.
"Obviously, it must be a part of his negotiating strategy. Ive never said anything like this, I love Edmonton, and I would never say anything bad about a team where Id worked. The truth is Oilers coaches werent giving me as much space as they had before (my injuries). If I stay, I would like to play as much as I had before."
Dvorak said the recently finished season ended up being extremely disappointing. He was part of a team that made it into the Stanley Cup finals, just as he had 10 years ago, as a Florida Panthers rookie, but in both cases, the team couldnt overcome the last hurdle, in the Oilers case, Game 7.
Besides, personally, Dvorak had a season from hell. He dressed for 64 regular season games and registered what he termed "a miserable 28 points (8 g + 20 a)", adding two more assists in the 16 playoff games he appeared in.
Speaking of the Oilers regular season, Dvorak wondered: "We took off just fine, and then we had a seven-game losing skid, and that had a negative impact on the entire team. Then, just like that, we won four times on away ice, and I even scored points in four consecutive games, and things changed."
But then, bad luck got to him: "A day before going on a road trip to New York and cities around, I had a groin injury. Somehow I went into the boards, and had to leave the ice in pain. So, I stayed back home, and after five days, I flew to join the team. In the first period in New Jersey, I made one wrong move, and I tore it completely. I couldnt play for the next two months, and that must have shown in the level of my play when I got back."
This injury led to one more disappointment: Dvorak had a spot on the Czech national team roster for the Torino Olympics, and that spot went to a healthy player (in his case, New Jerseys Patrik Elias). Alois Hadamczik, the Czech coach, met in Edmonton with Dvorak (as well as Ales Hemsky
and, what a weird situation, with then-Chicago Blackhawks Jaroslav Spacek) during a tour of NHL teams, and he liked what he saw of all three. "I did regret it," said Dvorak, "but I watched the games and talked on the phone with Ales Hemsky
." Besides, he got a few more days to heal.
Dvorak was surprised that it took the Oilers last-minute heroics by Hemsky to make the playoffs. "We had a high-quality team. We got Michael Peca and Chris Pronger in the summer, Shawn Horcoff
was playing well, we added Jaroslav Spacek during the season, young Hemsky was playing like a man obsessed. We shouldnt have had such problems we eventually had with this kind of team. Then again, ours was the toughest division in the entire NHL. I mean, Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota and Colorado, and we had to play each of them eight times, and thats a tough way to earn points. Besides, thanks to the new rules, the league became more balanced."
And then they made it.
"We had a great series against Detroit. Next round, San Jose led 2-0, and yet, we managed to turn it around. We eliminated Anaheim in the semifinals 4-1, but frankly, with the exception of one game, they were better. They had more chances. Dwayne Roloson was our hero. And the finals against Carolina? I think we lost it in Game 1. We led 3-0 and ended up losing 5-4!
"Had this not happened, we would have had home ice advantage for the deciding game. We believed in ourselves on their ice in Game 7, too, but they jumped at us from the get-go, scored twice, and that made it too tough. We did manage to cut into their lead, we were all over them in the last period, but it wasnt enough.
"I hope Ill earn another chance earlier than 10 years from now. Id be almost 40 then, and I dont think Id still be in the NHL then."
Dvorak missed a third of his teams playoff run, too: a knee injury took care of that.
"They gave me a special orthesis for my knee. I had to wear neoprene shorts and a special neoprene belt for my groin. It took some time to get used to it, the blood wasnt circulating there as it should have, it just didnt feel good. When I was changing in the dressing room, the guys had fun, laughing and saying I looked like a robot. I still feel pain in the groin, but I saw Dr. Pavel Kolar (a noted Czech sports medicine guru, considered one of the best on the continent by many), and he told me its getting better. The knee looks better, too. Still, I can only do rehab for another month."
Before jumping into the full on-and-off-ice practice regimen with buddy Vaclav Prospal, Dvorak plans a few golfing days in Mallorca with Spacek and Jan Hlavac. By the time he returns to practice ice in the Czech Republic, he hopes to know where hes going to play next season: as of July 1, hes completely free.
But, as he had said:
"I talked to Edmontons management and they told me they were interested in me. ... (and) I love Edmonton."