February 17, 2006

Injured Hasek and Elias leave Games

By Alan Crosby

TURIN (Reuters) - Top Czech goalie Dominik Hasek will leave
the Olympics due to a leg injury, team officials said on
Friday, dealing a severe blow to his team's chances of
dethroning champions Canada.

Zbynek Kusy, general manager of the Czech ice hockey team,
added that forward Patrik Elias was also leaving the Games
after suffering a rib injury from a crosscheck during the
club's opening game against Germany.

He said Dusan Salficky would replace Hasek, while Ales
Kotalik would be called up for Elias.

"I'm not able to play. It's over," Hasek said. "I also
don't want to get injured and have it affect the rest of the
NHL season."

Hasek, a two-times NHL MVP, was the star of the Czech team
that upset Canada and Russia on the way to Olympic gold in
1998, and was expected to reprise his role in Turin.

But the 41-year-old's Olympic dream was shattered less than
10 minutes into the Games, when he fell awkwardly while making
a save.

He immediately came off the ice with a strained adductor
muscle in his left leg.

The news hits hard a Czech team that has struggled so far
even though they are considered one of the top two teams in the

The Czechs trailed Germany 1-0 after the first period on
Wednesday before pulling away late in the game to win 4-1.

Bad went to worse as they underestimated a spirited Swiss
team on Thursday, losing 3-2 in a game where goalie Tomas
Vokoun, Hasek's replacement, admitted he played poorly.

"He's probably the biggest reason they won gold in 1998,
and he would have been the dark horse to carry them to gold
again," said Canadian coach Pat Quinn, who is also head coach
of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The injury to Elias comes just as he was getting his
skating legs back.

The New Jersey Devils forward was not named to the original
Czech team after he contracted Hepatitis A last year while
playing in Russia during the NHL labor dispute.

He missed the first 39 games of the NHL season this year as
he recovered, and was later added to the Czech squad after New
York Rangers forward Petr Prucha went down with a knee injury
days before the Games started.