Josi at 2024 Worlds

PRAGUE -- Nico Hischier knew he couldn't take the captaincy for Switzerland at the 2024 IIHF World Championship.

Hischier, who captained Switzerland to a fifth-place finish at the 2023 tournament, earmarked the honor for Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi instead.

"I discussed it with [Patrick Fischer], our coach, and it was always clear if Roman was here, he was going to be captain," said Hischier, who captains the New Jersey Devils. "I was always like, if he's here, he's our captain. He obviously deserves it. I mean, I've been growing up watching him. I would never take it away from him or make any problems. We're here for the same goal. I'm more than happy following Roman."

The defenseman, who is from Bern, was available to Switzerland after the Predators were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round on May 3.

It marks the first time Josi has worn the “C” at any level in international competition, as far as he can recall.

"It's awesome," Josi said. "Playing for Switzerland is always a huge honor. Growing up you always watched the World Championships, you always watched the Swiss team, and there were a lot of players you looked up to. To be able to be the captain now of this team is a huge honor, for sure."

Josi has represented Switzerland at the World Championship nine times, the World Junior Championship four times, the World Under-18 Championship twice, and at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He also represented Switzerland as a member of Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

"Honestly, he's leading by example," Swiss teammate and Winnipeg Jets forward Nino Niederreiter said. "I think he goes out there and leaves it all out there and he tries to pull guys with him on the ice. I would say he's not the most vocal guy, but obviously he speaks up when he has to. Overall, his work ethic and the way he plays on the ice, that's what makes him stand out as a great captain.

"You listen when he talks. There's a lot of great leaders in this locker room but obviously he's the captain, and when he speaks up you definitely listen."

The role is not lost on Josi, who has been an alternate captain at the men's level with Switzerland on four different occasions. He understands there's a legacy that comes with being captain because of the players who have served in the role at various international tournaments in the past, including Mark Streit, who was captain in nine of 13 trips to the World Championship from 1998-2015.

"I think Streit, obviously, was a big idol for me,” Josi said. “Just him making the NHL as the first guy like that, a player and not a goaltender, that really made it and fought his way into the NHL with the way he worked. It opened a lot of doors for us Swiss players.

"And then there were a ton of players playing for the national team. You always looked up to guys like (Mathias) Seger, and Martin Steinegger was one of my big idols. The World Championship was always a highlight for us. We were watching as kids all the time. It was pretty cool."

Josi looked up to those past Swiss ice hockey icons the same way the next generation looks up to him.

Count Hischier among them.

"He means a lot," Hischier, 25, said. "You saw him going overseas and at the beginning he was in the AHL a little bit but established himself quick. Now you don't need to say anything else. He's one of the best defenders in the NHL. It's just fun playing with him and not against him. I'm really happy he's here. We obviously have a huge advantage if he's on the ice."

Much like the captaincy, Josi takes pride in his role of role model, too.

"It's pretty cool to just think about that," Josi said. "That's such a huge part of the game, hopefully you can inspire young kids and hopefully they look up to you and you can be a good role model for them ... not just in hockey but just in general. I think that's something I take a lot of pride in. What those guys did for me, hopefully I give something back too."

Josi, who had 85 points (23 goals, 62 assists) in 82 games for the Predators this season, leads Switzerland at the World Championship with 11 points (three goals, eight assist) in six games.

The 33-year-old is hoping the experience, both on the ice and off, can give him fresh ideas on how to lead Nashville beyond the first round of the postseason for the first time since 2018.

"Maybe it's a little bit like playoffs because it’s shorter than the whole season, but there's definitely things you can compare," Josi said. "You always get some amazing ideas. You're in the NHL the whole year with the Predators and you have your routine and then you come here and it's different, which is pretty cool as a player.

"You definitely learn some new things. You try to come together as a team as quick as possible and get that connection and everything happens pretty quick. It's a little bit different, but there are definitely things I can take from Nashville to bring here, and things from here I can bring to Nashville."