Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Weak Slovak lineup needs Petro points
By JEAN LEFEBVRE -- Calgary Sun
If Peter Stastny comes knocking on the Calgary Flames' door in his ongoing struggle to stock Slovakia's Olympic hockey team, he just might get an answer.
While Flames general manager Craig Button stopped short of guaranteeing he'd deliver Ronald Petrovicky to the Slovak GM, he strongly hinted he wouldn't stand in the way of his 24-year-old right winger's Olympic aspirations.
"I think the biggest thing that I look at in this situation are the benefits accrued from Ronald being able to participate in the Olympics," explains Button. "Yes, if we did allow Ronald to go to the Olympics, he would miss two of our games but I try not to look at what he's missing. I try to look at the benefits, which I think are good for Ronald in the long term."
Petrovicky, a major point-producer in junior, has been a role player in his first two NHL seasons. This season, he has three goals, four assists and 36 penalty minutes in 28 games.
"Ronald," says Stastny, a former Quebec Nordiques star, "is definitely one of the players we're looking at."
Petrovicky says he won't ask Button for time off -- "that's Peter's work," he points out -- but hopes the GMs can work out an arrangement.
"If they decide to let me go," he says, "I'll be more than happy. I'll thank Craig and I'll represent my country in the Olympics.
"Everybody wants the best for their hockey team, so if Craig says I can't go, I can't go. I have a job to do here and I won't be mad at all. (The Flames) are my main priority."
The release of Slovaks on NHL rosters has been a hot-button issue leading up to February's Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Unlike Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland, the U.S. and the Czech Republic, Slovakia must secure a place in the Olympic tournament in a qualifying event that conflicts with NHL regular-season scheduling.
Slovakia, with its long list of NHLers and silver medal from the 2000 world championships, seems out of place in the qualifying pool that includes the likes of France, the Ukraine and Austria.
Then again, the Slovaks are accustomed to battling for respect.
The nation is still often confused with its neighbour, the Czech Republic, or the hybrid Czechoslovakia that existed in the Communist era.
A man who might be contributing to Slovakia's cause is Petrovicky's older brother Robert, the former Whalers, Stars, Lightning, Blues and Islanders forward who is now plying his trade in Switzerland.
A family reunion in Salt Lake City sounds good to the younger Petrovicky.
"You love your teammates," he says, "but if it's somebody you've spent your whole life with, it's even more special."
2002 Games Men's Hockey Coverage