VOORHEES, N.J. -- Jakub Voracek was visibly exhausted. His flight back from Sochi on Thursday was 11 hours long -- and that doesn’t count the time it took him to drive home from Newark, N.J.
But for the 24-year-old first-time Olympian, representing the Czech Republic was entirely worth it.
“It was a great experience,” Voracek said Friday at a stop by Skate Zone. “I think it was a great setup -- the village, Olympic Park. I really enjoyed it. It’s too bad it was short like that. Unfortunately, we had to play a very hard team in the quarterfinals. But it’s good to be back now.”
The Czech Republic made it to the quarterfinals, where it was eliminated by the U.S. in a 5-2 loss. But playing against such tough competition was a learning experience for the young Flyers forward, who said he was able to take away a lot from the opportunity
In addition to the U.S., the Czech Republic faced Sweden (who made it to the gold-medal game), Latvia, Switzerland and Slovakia. They finished 2-3.
“You have to learn from every game, every shift that you play there,” Voracek said. “For some, it happens only once in a lifetime. It was another step in my hockey career. I’m just going to take it and hopefully use it in the future and especially in the season.”
Voracek played very well through the entire tournament, perhaps best of all in the Czech Republic’s 4-2 win over Latvia in which he scored the tiebreaking goal. That night was the on-ice highlight of his time in Russia.
“It was a big goal in that game,” he said, “but it’s too bad I didn’t score more. I really enjoyed every shift I played in the Olympics. But now I’m happy to be back.”
He was happy to be in Sochi, too. And like his Flyers teammate Andrej Meszaros (see story), Voracek had a great time in the Olympic Village and didn’t have any problems like the ones publicized widely in the media.
“I think the setup, the way it was, everything was great,” he said. “I think the media blew it up here a little bit too much. But as an experience for me, my first Olympics, it was just awesome.”
If his NHL career continues as it has, Voracek will be a likely candidate for the next Winter Olympics, which will be held in 2018 in South Korea. That is, of course, if NHL players are permitted to participate.
It’s no surprise that, after his time in Sochi, Voracek is firmly in the camp of those who believe players should be allowed to play in the Olympics if they so choose.
“Once every four years, I don’t think it’s going to hurt to go to the Olympics,” he said. “For every player from the NHL, I think it’s a great experience.
“Representing your country in the Olympics, every athlete dreams of it since he’s growing up.”