Slovak MEPs back Satan for Sochi

Miroslav Satan of Slovakia celebrates a goal in Bratislava on May 9, 2011 (AFP/File)

Slovak Christian Democrat MEPs on Thursday accused the coach of their nation's wildly popular ice hockey team of ageism for cutting former NHL star forward Miroslav Satan from the Olympic line-up. "The coach preferred younger but not necessarily better players," Anna Zaborska, an EU lawmaker with the European People's Party (EPP), said in a statement. "Had any employer acted in this way, he would have violated the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which forbids discrimination based on age." At 39, Satan is a legend. He won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and played on the Slovak side in four winter Olympics and 10 world championships. "Satan belongs in the Olympics, he's one of the best players Slovakia has," retired NHL hero turned MEP Peter Stastny, also with the EPP, said Thursday. The politicians themselves may not be going for gold, but Bratislava commentators believe they are using the hot issue to raise their profiles ahead of the European Parliament elections in May. Earlier this week Slovakia coach Vladimir Vujtek unveiled his lineup for the Sochi Olympics including NHL veterans Jaroslav Halak of the St Louis Blues, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks as well as 12 Olympic first-timers. "We needed to freshen up the team. Satan's performance wasn't better than other nominees (for the February 6-23 Winter Games)," Vujtek said. Satan, who is currently with Slovan Bratislava in Europe's Continental Hockey League, said he would end his active career later this year. Hockey is a national obsession in Slovakia, an ex-communist country of 5.4 million people. It narrowly missed the podium at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, placing fourth behind Canada, the USA and Finland. Miroslav Satan of Slovakia celebrates a goal in Bratislava on May 9, 2011