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BOND OF BROTHERS

From China to Calgary, around the league and back again, globetrotting Gaudreau, Ryan and Hanifin brought closer together at Worlds

by AARON VICKERS @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

KOSICE, Slovakia - It's as if seven months, and 87-plus games, wasn't enough time together.

But even with preseason, regular season and Stanley Cup Playoff games in the rearview mirror for the Flames, defenceman Noah Hanifin is having a heck of a time shaking winger Johnny Gaudreau.

The teammates, along with Derek Ryan to complete the trio, have reunited after just a three-week hiatus as members of Team USA's entry at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

"Doc's the best, but I get a little sick of Johnny at times," Hanifin jokingly deadpanned.

"No … it's fun. It's a great group of guys here. It's a great event.

"Obviously we're pretty tight during the season anyway, but coming over here, being in Europe and having more of a relaxed schedule and hanging out, having fun and work on your game and try to win a gold medal. It's been a lot of fun.

"He's a great kid and he's a great teammate to have."

 

 

The 'kid' is the longest tenured member of the Flames participating at the tournament, which also features Elias Lindholm with Sweden and Michael Frolik with the Czech Republic.

Hanifin and Ryan each joined the Flames from the Carolina Hurricanes last summer.

He, with Lindholm, was acquired via trade on June 23.

Ryan, who played with Gaudreau at the 2018 World Championship, signed a three-year contract on July 1.

The three have managed to extend their season.

Together.

"It just makes it a little bit more comfortable," said Gaudreau, who finished eighth in NHL scoring with a career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists).

"You know some guys. I obviously know a lot of guys in the locker-room. But playing with the guys all year, it's nice to come over here with them and play some hockey with them and play for your country with them. It's special. You don't get to do it very often.

"When you get to do it with teammates it makes it even more special."

Ryan and Hanifin, from their days in Carolina, are understandably more familiar with each other.

But it's given them a chance, beyond the regular season and playoffs, to further get to know Gaudreau.

"I knew him a little bit from last year, too," Ryan said. "It was nice to have somewhat of a familiar face getting to a new team. He's a quiet guy. Once you get to know him he comes out of his shell a little bit. He's just a little kid to me.

"It feels like he's just coming into his own person.

"He's fun to be around. He's a funny guy. He likes to joke around."

 

 

There's been plenty of time this year for those jokes.

The season has to register among the longest, at least in terms of distance, in franchise history.

It started with a, roughly, 10,571-kilometers trip Shenzen - and a few more clicks bouncing to Beijing - as a participant in the 2018 NHL Global Series with the Boston Bruins last September. Mix in the return flight to Calgary.

The Flames logged an NHL-high 84,882 kilometers over the course of the 2018-19 season, too.

Then, for Gaudreau, Hanifin and Ryan, add approximately 8,132 to get to Kosice, Slovakia for the World Championship. They'll need to get back to their respective summer destinations on top of that.

"It's been a crazy year," Gaudreau said. "I've been all over the world. I feel like I'm more like a world traveller than a hockey player, recently. It's awesome to play in these cities and these countries.

"You don't get to do it very often.

"It's pretty sweet when you get the chance to do that."

A lot of miles.

A lot of full pages in the ol' passport.

Good thing Gaudreau and Hanifin are tolerable.

"I know, right?" said Ryan, who matched his NHL career-high of 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in his first season with the Flames. "That's alright. They're good guys to be around.

"It's kind of weird. China to Slovakia. I wouldn't have guessed that.

"I've got some passport stamps along the way.

"So it's been fun." 
 

 

The World Championship is the final stop.

Gaudreau is in his fourth spin with Team USA at this level.

Hanifin's appearance marks his third.

Ryan is making his second straight showing.

They'll split for the summer shortly thereafter.

But not before enjoying one last experience together.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Hanifin, who established a new personal NHL best with 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 2018-19.

"This is my third time coming to the tournament and it's always fun every year. You get to play with new guys and form new relationships. It's been good. It's even more special playing with guys that are on my team playing with all year.

"It's good to get extra hockey in, all of us."

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