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Czechs Thrilled by Hockey Upset

By Ondrej Hejma
Associated Press
Friday, February 20, 1998; 6:44 a.m. EST

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Drivers honked their horns, strangers hugged each other and even hospitalized President Vaclav Havel was among the happy rooters as the Czechs stunned Canada today in the Olympic ice hockey semifinal.

Hundreds of mostly young fans and students converged on Prague's Wenceslas Square, waving flags and shouting the names of their heroes who helped pull off the 2-1 victory in a shootout.

Financial markets came to a standstill during the game while traders were glued to their TV screens.

As the live broadcast from Japan started this morning, Havel was being examined by doctors following throat surgery he underwent on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Havel's aides said, the president's interest was intense.

"He insisted on being informed all the time,'' said his spokesman Ladislav Spacek, who watched the game in Havel's hospital room.

"He even managed to watch some of the game's last period and he is sending a telegram to the players right now,'' Spacek added.

"Hasan,'' the nickname of Dominik Hasek, the Czech goalie who shut out the Canadians in the final shootout, was on everybody's lips.

"Hasan did it for all of us — We made it!'' said Patrik Skara, a 17-year-old student who skipped school to watch the game and celebrate.

Many others shouted "Hasek to the Castle'' — a traditional joke by which fans suggest their sports stars could even handle the president's job.

"All we have to do now is to beat Russia in the final and show the world we are the best,'' Skara said, even before the result of the Russia-Finland semifinal was known. "But even if we don't, this is the game I will always remember.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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