The Czech Republic is all set to host the 2015 World Championship later this month, but what should be a happy time in the hockey nation has been overshadowed by a strange allegation involving national team coach Vladimir Ruzicka.
The former NHLer with Boston, Edmonton and Ottawa has been accused by a player's father of taking a bribe, something Ruzicka emphatically denies. Ruzicka, who also coaches locally with the Slavia Prague organization (recent alum include San Jose's Tomas Hertl and St. Louis' Dmitrij Jaskin), was allegedly given a total of 500,000 Czech crowns (about $20,000 U.S.) by Miroslav Palascak in two installments. David Palascak, his son, played parts of two seasons for Slavia's under-20 squad, but was also loaned out to lower-tier teams beginning in 2011-12 and has not played a game for Slavia since.
Palascak's father secretly taped a meeting with Ruzicka and according to Agence France-Presse, Czech police are viewing the tape to see if a crime has been committed. No charges have been laid. Palascak believed the money would ensure that his son got to practise with Slavia.
Ruzicka – who, according to Germany's Sport1, believed the money was a donation to the program – eventually returned the money due to his own concerns and released a statement defending himself:
"I have never accepted any financial sum in exchange for a promise to privilege a player," he said.
Ruzicka went on to question the timing of the story, since he returned the money way back in November. A hero back home, Ruzicka is a Czech Hall of Famer with gold medals at the 1998 Olympics and 1985 World Championship. This year's worlds are being held in Prague and Ostrava, so it's a big time for Ruzicka and the national team.
Original press report sourced from Elliotte Friedman