COLUMBUS - With the temperature in Ohio's capital city hovering 90 degrees and people barbecuing over the Labor Day weekend, it might have been hard to grasp that hockey season has arrived in the form of the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
But the first day of training camp for Team USA in Nationwide Arena got the competitive and patriotic juices flowing prior to the start of the World Cup on Sept. 17 in at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
"We're going to have a moment of honesty here," forward David Backes told NHL.com. "Summer ended abruptly for me Sunday morning on the flight here and there was a little dread when summer was over, but that all ended when I got to the rink today and it was being with the guys, putting the gear on and going out there and snapping pucks around.
"I had a blast out there. I'd say maybe the most fun I've had in a hockey practice, just being out there with this group of guys. Summer's over, but we're playing at the highest level for our country."
Team USA goaltender Ben Bishop said he started getting excited for the World Cup while watching the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"It's the pride factor," he said. "You watch them on TV represent the U.S., and now it's our turn. It got your pride going."
Having USA across the front of the jersey comes with a responsibility, goaltender Cory Schneider said.
"Our actions, or our results on the ice, are a reflection of the United States," he said. "We're going to have a lot of people pulling for us, rooting for us, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well."
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Team USA coach John Tortorella has an affinity for the hard-nosed, edgy style of forward Brandon Dubinsky, whom he coached at the New York Rangers and now with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dubinsky has made a name for himself by hounding, harassing and generally annoying Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, sometimes to the extreme. Dubinsky was suspended one game for cross checking Crosby last November.
The two will meet again in the World Cup during Group A play on Sept. 20, and some people think that's why Dubinsky is on the Team USA roster. Prior to that is a pretournament game vs. Team Canada on Friday in Columbus.
"Everybody makes the team for a reason, so I don't plan on changing my game," Dubinsky said. "It's always fun when you play against the best in the world. He's one of them. It's not just him, it's Canada and the rivalry in general. It's going to be exciting and a lot of fun for me to do that in my home building."
TRUE GRIT: The expected fourth line will have David Backes at center for Dubinsky, and either Kyle Palmieri or James van Riemsdyk on the right wing.
Call it the "Havoc Line."
"We're going to have the identity that no one is going to like us when we come over the boards and they're already on the ice," Backes said. "When we get the puck, it's going in below the goal line and it's going to be hit and hit and finding the puck and bringing it to the net and scrum it up.
"We're guys that like to play hard and are tough to play against. Whether it's Palmieri or van Riemsdyk on the wing or whoever it is in the group, we're going to be counted on to provide energy, to have momentum-changing shifts and bring to the team what we need at the moment."