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Road to World Cup

Czech Republic hoping to build on strong history

Won Olympic gold medal in 1998, finished third in 2004 World Cup

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World Cup history (1996-present): Finished eighth in 1996, third in 2004

Canada Cup history (1976-91, as Czechoslovakia): Finished second in 1976, third in 1981, fifth in 1984, fourth in 1987, sixth in 1991

World Championship history (2012-16): Finished third in 2012, seventh in 2013, fourth in 2014, fourth in 2015, fifth in 2016

Olympic history (since 1998): Finished first in 1998, seventh in 2002, third in 2006, seventh in 2010, seventh in 2014

Olympic medal history (overall): Gold 1, silver 0, bronze 1

The Czech Republic's split with Slovakia on Jan. 1, 1993, brought to an end one of the world's preeminent hockey teams. Czechoslovakia won medals at 19 of 21 World Championships from 1969-92 and in six of eight Winter Olympics from 1964-92.

Following the split, the IIHF recognized the Czech Republic as the successor of Czechoslovakia's national team and kept it in the top group. The Czech Republic has justified that decision with its performance in international tournaments.

After finishing fifth at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, the Czech Republic won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Goaltender Dominik Hasek allowed six goals in six games and shut out Russia 1-0 in the championship game, triggering parades and celebrations in Prague. 

The Czech Republic has also enjoyed success at the World Championships, winning four times in a six-year stretch from 1996-2001, and again in 2005 and 2010.

Hasek is by far the greatest goaltender in Czech history. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender six times, won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player twice, and was a member of Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008. One thing that never made his resume was a trip to the World Cup of Hockey; injuries kept him out in 1996 and 2004.

The other cornerstone in Czech hockey is Jaromir Jagr, whose career predates the split with Slovakia. Jagr turned 44 on Feb. 15, but led the Florida Panthers in scoring with 66 points, including 27 goals, last season. He's third in NHL history with 749 goals and 1,868 points, despite spending three seasons in the KHL.

Jagr, who took part in the 1991 Canada Cup and the first two editions of the World Cup of Hockey, won't be playing in this one; he retired from the national team after the 2015 World Championship. This World Cup team will be led by NHL veterans Tomas Plekanec, Martin Hanzal, David Krejci and Jakub Voracek, who's one of three members of the Philadelphia Flyers on the roster (Radko Gudas, Michal Neuvirth).

Team Czech Republic has enough high-end talent to compete in Group A, which includes Team USA, Team Canada and Team Europe. However, a lack of puck-movers on defense could present a problem for a team that should have solid goaltending (Neuvirth, Petr Mrazek, Ondrej Pavelec) and figures to be hard to play against.

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