MONTREAL - Kirk Muller has always enjoyed representing Canada internationally, so the opportunity to join head coach Alain Vigneault's staff for the 2019 IIHF World Championship was too good to pass up.
The 53-year-old Kingston, ON native will be one of Vigneault's three assistants, joining Dave Hakstol and Lindy Ruff for the annual tournament which runs from May 10-26 in Košice and Bratislava, Slovakia.
This will mark Muller's second coaching stint at the World Championship, having previously served alongside head coach Brent Sutter and fellow assistant Guy Boucher in 2012.
"Anytime you represent Canada, it's always a thrill and you can never take it for granted. I'm super excited to be a part of the Team Canada family again," said Muller, who was delighted to receive a call from Vigneault regarding the gig. "For me, it's just one more opportunity to work with really good hockey people and you're learning every day."
Naturally, Muller would prefer being behind the Canadiens' bench right about now battling it out in the opening round of the postseason.
But, the chance to head overseas and prolong the campaign really is the next best thing.
"There's nothing like being in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That's our goal, win the Cup. But, if you're going to finish early, it's an opportunity to extend the season and be involved in some very competitive games," said Muller. "I've enjoyed the World Championship over the years. You've got passionate fans over there in these countries and they love to see Canada play. It makes you proud to be a part of the Canadian team."
The Habs' associate coach made four World Championship appearances as a player, winning two silver medals and a bronze.
His favorite tournament of the bunch, though, was in 1989 when Canada earned a runner-up finish in Sweden.
"We had a great team. Steve Yzerman was there, along with Dale Hawerchuk and Mark Messier. It was a really strong group," recalled Muller, who registered six goals, 10 points and a plus-12 differential in nine games that year. "It was just great hockey."
During those trips overseas, the six-time NHL All-Star developed a sincere appreciation for the event and the level of competition on-site, too.
He fully expects the Canadian contingent to be put to the test again as they open preliminary round play against Finland on Friday, May 10.
Canada will also square off against Great Britain, Slovakia, France, Germany, Denmark and the United States in the preliminary round as well.
"When you get over there, you quickly understand how much the World Championship means to these countries. They're prepared and ready to go. They want to beat Canada and they want to go for gold," mentioned Muller. "We've got to be humble, Everybody loves beating Canada because they know the history of our hockey. Every game, it doesn't matter what country we play, I realized over the years they're bringing their 'A' game. We've got to be ready for it right off the hop."
That's why the Canadian squad is getting right down to business planning-wise. Coaches meetings will be held early next week before the group heads to Europe on May 1 to get some work in ahead of the tournament-opener.
Last year, Canada placed fourth after falling to the Americans in the bronze-medal game in Denmark.