For Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, answering the call to play for the United States is a big honor.
Lee and Nelson are heading to Cologne, Germany to play for Team USA at the upcoming IIHF World Hockey Championship from May 5-21. It's the second call for Lee, who is eager to wear the red, white and blue again.
"It's a great honor and I'm always excited to play for the US team," Lee said. "My last World Championship was the first time I'd been able to play for a US team, so that was really exciting. It's always a fun thing to say yes to, play some more hockey and travel a bit."
Nelson is a mainstay on the U.S. Men's National Team, playing in his fourth straight World Championship and fifth tournament overall for USA Hockey. Nelson's best showing at Worlds was in 2015, when he led Team USA with 10 points (6G, 4A) en route to winning a bronze medal. He was selected as one of the assistant captains for this year's tournament on Monday afternoon.
"Anytime you can go over and play for your country it's a good time," Nelson said. "You're playing for something a little bit bigger, so it's always a special time."
Both Lee and Nelson expressed their disappointment for not being in the NHL playoffs, but called the international tournament an extension of their personal seasons. Lee scored a career-high 34 goals and 52 points this season, while Nelson hit the 20-goal mark for the third straight year. After taking a couple weeks to decompress following the NHL season, they're happy to get back on the ice.
"It's an easy decision," Nelson said to join Team USA. "It sucks being done from your own team this early, but it's just an extension of the season, go over there, meet some new people, new friends and play with different guys around the league you normally play against."
They'll be joined by a few NHL all-stars like Johnny Gaudreau as well as young stars like Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. Lee skated with Eichel and Gaudreau in Team USA's 5-2 exhibition win over Italy on Tuesday.
This will be the first time in Cologne for Lee and Nelson, but they'll have Thomas Greiss and Dennis Seidenberg to show them around, as their Islanders teammates play for Team Germany. The world travel is an added bonus that comes along with playing in the World Championships.
"It's nice to have some people you know for off days, meet up and go check some things out together and that way you're not totally lost over there," Nelson said.
The friendships will be on hold on the ice, as the U.S. opens the tournament against Germany on May 5. They'll have to wait until the knockout rounds before potentially playing Calvin de Haan and Team Canada. Hopefully for the American Islanders, they'll be playing right until the final game on May 21.
"I had a great time there last time and pulled off a bronze medal," Lee said. "I believe we can do better this time.