John Tavares has won a lot with Team Canada. He's got an Olympic gold medal, two World Junior gold medals, a and a Spengler Cup. That winning feeling never gets old, but where does his newly-won World Cup of Hockey championship rank among his top international feats?
"It's right up there for me probably right along with the Olympics because I got to play in my home country and in my hometown in a best-on-best tournament," Tavares said at Northwell Health Ice Center on Tuesday.
Tavares finished the tournament with a goal and three assists in the six preliminary/knockout games, including some highlight-reel moments like his dangle on US defenseman Matt Niskanen and snipe against Team Russia in the semifinals. His favorite highlight was lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament - and being healthy enough to actually play in the game, unlike his injury-shortened Olympics in 2014.
"Being healthy throughout the whole tournament was a lot of fun to play in, the semifinal and the final, those are the things that as a kid you really dream about playing in, so for me just to really enjoy that experience being in my hometown and playing for my country and obviously to win, so yeah, it was a lot of fun."
Tavares played the entire tournament on the wing, alongside Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Tavares is a student of the game and relishes the chance to play with - and learn from - the game's elite players.
"You always learn from everybody, but playing with Getzlaf was a lot of fun," Tavares said. "Me and Stammer kind of grew up together a little bit, I think we just relished being able to play with each other again, so trying to pick it up where we left off as kids, but Getzy is such a great player. He uses his size so well, he's so strong on the puck and he's got soft hands and is a very vocal guy too. So for me adjusting to the wing, he made it easier for me just always talking to me out there and learning stuff like that just how well he communicates to his line mates really helped to our success and made me feel comfortable, so I have a lot of respect for him."
Tavares said he feels like he's in excellent condition after the best-on-best tournament. He also said he enjoyed playing for Mike Babcock again and that having played together with a majority of Team Canada, it felt like they had picked up from where they left off in Sochi. But now, back on Long Island, Tavares is looking to pick up where he left off with the Islanders.
"It's fun to be back and in the locker room," Tavares said. "I felt like I was missing out a little bit, so it's great to be back and having some fun.