Two Decades After Beating His Homeland in the ‘94 Olympics, Petr Nedved Will Compete With the Czechs in Sochi...

Defector. Sniper. Canadian Olympian. Enigma. Lots of words can be used to describe the life and hockey career of Petr Nedved. “Czechoslovakian Olympian” was never a phrase that even he, now 42, thought would be appropriate. But now, two decades after competing in his first Olympic Games in 1994 — as a Canadian — and 25 years after defecting, he will compete in Sochi for a country he once helped defeat. “I knew you guys didn’t think I was still playing,” he said with a smile. “Here I am.” The fact that he is still playing at all, let alone at an Olympic level, comes as a surprise to most North American hockey fans, but he is still playing in the Czech Republic, and averaging more than a point per game, since he left the NHL in 2007. But his storybook trip to Sochi started long before he left the NHL, and even before he even entered the league. In 1989, Nedved, just 17 at the time, took it upon himself to get in touch with the police while participating in a midget tournament in Calgary and defect from communist Czechoslovakia — with just $20 and his hockey gear to his name. He never even told his parents about his plans, despite the fact that he had his own reservations. He told the <em>Calgary Herald</em>: “Am I able to go back home? Will my parents be okay with my brother? I was almost more scared for my family than me. But I knew I wanted to play in the National Hockey League and, other than that, I didn’t know much … there were a lot of unknowns.” Just a year later, he was drafted second overall by the Vancouver Canucks and began a long...