Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss were both at an informal skate Thursday at Islanders Iceworks, working with Islanders teammates before heading to World Cup training camp on Monday in Quebec City. Halak and Greiss are two of the three goalies named to Team Europe at the upcoming best-on-best tournament.
“It’ll be all high-end, really good hockey players from the league and it’ll be high competition from the start,” Halak said. “It’ll be a good tournament for the players to start and I’m sure it’ll be good for the fans and for hockey. It’s been a long time since the last world cup and all I can say is that I’m looking forward.”
This is the first tournament to feature a Team Europe, pooling together several smaller hockey nations as one group. Halak is one of six Slovaks on the team, while Greiss is one of five Germans. There are four players from Denmark, four from Switzerland and one player each from France, Norway and Slovenia.
Individually, these countries might not match up well against powerhouse teams like Canada or the United States, but pool them together and they have a full roster of NHL talent.
“I like the idea because otherwise the smaller countries wouldn’t have a team,” Greiss, who led Germany to the quarterfinals at the IIHF World Championships, said. “It gets more people involved in it and I think it’s a cool concept and will be fun to play with a bunch of different guys. Hopefully we can find some chemistry quick and have a good team.”
With three goalies and one crease, it’s unclear who will get the nod in goal for Team Europe when the tournament starts on Sept. 17. The multi-national club plays three exhibition games - two vs. Team North America and one vs. Team Sweden - during training camp to sort things out.
“We have three exhibition games and whether they will use all three of us in them and then decide, we’ll find out,” Halak said. “I’ll do my best and if I’m playing, I’m playing, if not I’ll be there supporting the team.”
Halak said he’s been skating for the last five weeks, taking shots for the last three and said he feels healthy.
For the Islanders, they’ll start training camp without two of their three goalies - JF Berube will be on Long Island when camp opens on Sept. 22 – and without captain John Tavares, head coach Jack Capuano and winger Nikolay Kulemin.
“It’s going to be a good training camp and since we start early I think everyone who goes to the World Cup will be in good shape,” Greiss said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun, awesome to be a part of it.”