The NHL stars are back at the Ice Hockey World Championships in the Czech Republic

Actually, David Pastrnak was there a long time ago. In the old town, at the train station, on posters and on the large LED screens, right next to the arena even on an entire building wall. It’s almost impossible to walk around Prague these days without seeing Pastrnak. However, the biggest ice hockey star in the Czech Republic was only smiling from an advertising poster for a betting provider; he himself was in the United States and was in demand in the play-offs of the NHL elite league with the Boston Bruins.

But that’s all over since the weekend and Boston was eliminated in the quarterfinals. So Pavel Nedved contacted the Bruins straight away. On Sunday, the manager of the Czech national team was able to announce completion: Pastrnak is still coming to the World Cup in Prague and is supposed to ensure that the tournament organizer’s selection wins the gold medal for the first time since 2010.

But it won’t be a walk in the park, not even with the 27-year-old winger, who scored 117 goals and prepared another 119 in the last two NHL seasons alone.

Headaches for the national associations

Because this 87th Ice Hockey World Cup is a collection of stars the likes of which have not been seen in Europe for a long time. 106 NHL players play for the 16 teams, an increase of more than 25 percent compared to the previous year. And it’s not just the quantity, but above all the quality: Stanley Cup winners, trophy collectors, captains, number one draft picks – they all found their way to Prague and Ostrava.

The difference can already be seen in the salaries: Last year, the NHL players who traveled here received annual salaries of almost 172 million dollars (158 million euros), this year it is around 375 million (345 million euros).

This is increasingly causing headaches for the national associations, because the contracts have to be insured. In individual cases, six-figure fees are due. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, like with Moritz Seider, who is currently negotiating a new contract with the Detroit Red Wings. And according to the German Ice Hockey Association (DEB), insuring something that does not yet exist was “not comprehensively possible”.

Moritz Seider is not representing Germany this year.dpa

Other NHL professionals are playing during the World Cup play-offs or are injured. Or they would rather treat themselves to a vacation after the strenuous club season. Especially Americans and Canadians, because the annual national tournament at home is of little interest. That’s not the case now, but a lot of big names still came.

Because the NHL announced in February that it would release its personnel for the Olympics again in 2026. The league will also be hosting the World Cup again in 2025 – its own national tournament. So Bill Guerin, manager of the US team, told The Athletic: “If players haven’t been in the playoffs or in important games for a long time – or at all – I want to see how they do there. That’s why I think the World Cup is extremely important.”

It’s also a sign: “I want to see commitment, and if a trip to the Caribbean is more important than the World Cup, then you’re not really committed.”

Connor Bedard is also happy

Similar sounds can be heard from Canada. Rick Nash, one of the squad planners last year, “almost had to beg” the players to come to the World Cup. Now they are doing this voluntarily because the tournament in the Czech Republic is seen as the start of an international cycle with the highlight being the Olympics.

Canada’s young star Connor Bedard is also happy about the “huge participation” of NHL players, as he tells the FAZ. The World Cup and the Olympics “could play a role”; he himself wants to “take part in both tournaments”. But now it’s all about “winning the gold medal” in Prague.

Others have banal reasons. Sweden’s defensive star Victor Hedman recently had to play long play-offs, now he has time, is fit and is back at a World Cup for the first time since 2017. “Who knows how many more times I can come,” he says. Hedman is 33 years old. This also applies to his line partner Erik Karlsson, the highest-paid defender in the world with an annual salary of $11.5 million.

Roman Josi, also one of the top defenders in the NHL, plays in the same squad and is now the head of the Swiss team at the World Cup, which is stronger than ever and is dreaming of its first title. Josi skipped the last four tournaments, but he is playing again in Prague.

Like so many others. Some want to take advantage of what may be their last chance, others finally want to become world champions, and still others want to be considered for the Olympics. The stars are back. Now finally the one that is billboarded all over Prague.

Ready for more

The German national ice hockey team has qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals for the fifth time in a row. One day after the 4-2 win against Poland, on the “regeneration day” in the hotel, the players saw Latvia win against Slovakia 3-2 after a penalty shootout, but can no longer overtake them in the Group B table.

This paved the way on Sunday for the final preliminary round encounter with France this Tuesday (12.20 p.m., Pro Sieben, Magentasport); Possible opponents in the first knockout round are Switzerland, against whom they often came out well, the selection of hosts Czech Republic and defending champions Canada. “It’s always fun to play against Switzerland,” said striker John-Jason Peterka, who shot himself to the top of the internal scorer rankings with his fourth and fifth goals. “They are a nation that is a bit afraid of us if you look at the last few years,” the 22-year-old added on Monday. Moritz Müller said that he and his teammates “don’t take their foot off the gas” against France.

The captain, who will be playing his 211th international match with the game and will thus draw level with the legendary Erich Kühnhackl, promised another appearance “in which we show our good habits so that we can strengthen trust in each other and everyone with us “Going out feeling good.” (FAZ/mah.)


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