His father, grandfather and uncle played international hockey under the Czech Republic’s flag. His dual-citizen brother also chose that option.
Adam Musil went a different route. The towering forward will play for Canada’s under-18 team in the annual Ivan Hlinka tournament starting Monday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Canada has won gold at the annual summer tournament six years running and 18 of 23 times since 1991. The U.S., Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Finland and the two host countries will attempt to end Canada’s run of titles.
The Canadians open the defence of their title against the Swiss in Piestany, Slovakia. But Musil is excited about Saturday’s pretournament game against the host Czechs in Breclav because he spent a decade living in the country.
“Maybe it will add a little more pressure because my friends and family will be there, but pressure is power and I’ll just use that to my advantage,” Musil said. “Knowing the language and everything, it makes it more special.”
Musil’s father, Frank, defected in 1986 from what was then Czechoslovakia. The defenceman played just fewer than 800 NHL games for Minnesota, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton until 2001. He represented the Czechs at the 1992 world championship. Frank is now an Edmonton Oilers scout and was an assistant coach of the Czech Olympic team in February.
Bobby Holik followed his brother-in-law to North America a few years later. He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils during his 18-year NHL career.
Holik represented the Czechs in a world championship and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Holik’s father, Jaroslav, was a Czechoslovak hockey star and went on to coach national teams.
Adam’s brother David, an Oilers prospect born in Calgary, played defence for the Czechs at the 2012 and ’13 world junior championships.
Adam was born in Ottawa, but learned to play hockey while living in Jihlava, Czech Republic, between the age of 3 and 13. His family moved to the Vancouver area upon their return to Canada when David joined the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants.
The way Adam tells it, there wasn’t much debate or even eyebrows raised in his family when he declared the country of hockey allegiance.
“I was born here in Canada and I just want to represent my country where I was born,” Adam said. “My dad didn’t really care. I just told him I wanted to represent Team Canada. He was totally fine with that and supported me in my decision.
“A few of my [Czech] friends weren’t too happy I made the decision with Canada, but I’m glad I made the decision and hopefully we will win gold. You’ll always have a chance to win gold at any tournament that you play for Canada.”
Canada participates in a world under-18 championship every April, but that tournament conflicts with major junior hockey league playoffs. So Canada fields a team without the top talent in that age group.
The summer under-18 team is considered the cream of the crop because all players – born in 1997 in this case – are available.
Musil, 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, had 11 goals and 18 assists in 60 games as a rookie with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels last season.
“He’s a big, strong kid that can get around the ice pretty well for his size,” under-18 coach Jody Hull said. “He’s not afraid to be physical when he has to be and get to the front of the net and create some havoc.”
“At the same time, he’s able to play on some special teams. He’s going to be a very important part of our team as we move forward.”
Musil’s ability to speak Czech will come in handy on their travels, too.
“That’ll be an asset for me, the rest of the coaches, plus the players,” Hull said.
Canada’s pool games against Switzerland, Sweden and Slovakia will be in Piestany, while the rest of the field plays pool games in Breclav. The top two teams in each pool advance to the semi-finals and the championship game is Aug. 16.
Canada won the bronze medal in April’s world under-18 championship in Finland. Three forwards from that team will also play in the Ivan Hlinka tournament: Travis Konecny of the Ottawa 67’s, Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs.
“The nice thing is there’s three players who were on the spring team, so they understand the importance of international play, the short tournament,” Hull said. “They’re going to be a real asset as far as leadership.
“We’re really solid up front. Our defence is very reliable. I wouldn’t say we’re going to be offensively gifted like some teams on the back end have been in the past. With the complement of our forwards and our solid goaltending, we’ve got a great team.”
Hull, also the coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, chose Canada’s 22 players Tuesday from 44 invited to a selection camp in Calgary.
The roster includes eight players from the Western and Ontario major leagues and six from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome, brother of New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome, is on the team.
Hull was abruptly promoted from assistant to head coach of the under-18 team in July, when Derek Laxdal stepped down to take an AHL coaching job in Texas.
“There wasn’t a lot of time to make a lot of changes, but we’ve adopted a lot of the stuff that Canada has done in the past, whether it’s [in Europe] or at Olympics,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is with the team now, I get the final say.”Report Typo/Error