Hemsky struggles for ice time in Czech opener

Czech Republic forward Ales Hemsky loses his footing against Sweden defenseman Niklas Kronwall. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

SOCHI, Russia – So you’ve been waiting months for the Olympic tournament to get underway and when the big night finally arrives you sit. And sit. And sit.

That was the situation Ales Hemsky faced at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday as the Czech forward waited about 31 minutes to get his first shift in the opening game against Sweden. As you might expect, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about the situation.

“It’s hard if you don’t play the first half of the game,” Hemsky told me after a 4-2 loss. “I’m not used to it. I didn’t sit like that for how many years, but it is what it is. I just tried to get back and just get my legs going.”

The veteran Edmonton Oilers winger received just two shifts and one minutes 23 second of ice time through two periods, but seemed to work his way back into the rotation in the third. That’s when he had a dangerous shot stopped by Henrik Lundqvist before fumbling away a glorious opportunity in front on a power play.

In the end, Hemsky finished with 6:58 of ice time – less than half of what he’s averaged for the Edmonton Oilers this season. It was not how he imagined the first night of the Olympics to go, but he seemed to accept that it is part of the sacrifice made by numerous players in this event.

Czech coach Alois Hadamczik has come under fire for his questionable decisions leading up to the tournament, including having goalie Ondrej Pavelec watch the first game in street clothes, and Hemsky wondered at one point Wednesday if he would even play at all. Afterwards, he had no idea if he earned the coach’s trust by playing well in the third period.

“It’s up to them,” said Hemsky. “It’s a hard question – I hope so. I tried to do my best and I felt pretty good actually.”

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