Roman Josi and Yannick Weber never imagined they'd have a chance to play for an NHL team in their hometown of Bern, Switzerland. Funny how things work out.
The Predators defensemen - and the rest of their Nashville teammates - will make the trek to Europe next fall to take part in the NHL's 2020 Global Series, a journey that will see the Preds make stops in both Bern and Prague, Czech Republic, to start the 2020-21 season.
Training camp will begin in September in Nashville as usual, but the Preds will finish camp in Switzerland by playing an exhibition game against SC Bern at PostFinance Arena. Then, they'll open the regular season against the Boston Bruins at O2 Arena in Prague.
Both stops will be special, but it's that first outing in Bern that will undoubtedly become a highlight in the careers of a pair of blueliners who saw their NHL dreams begin in the shadow of the Swiss Alps.
"I'm really excited," Josi said. "I grew up there, grew up five minutes away from the rink, so it's pretty special for me. My whole family's there, all my best friends I grew up with are there and Bern is the only team I played for. It's going to be a great experience for me, and I think for the whole Predators organization."
"It's very special," Weber said. "There are [NHL] teams [that have played] before in Bern, and you always hope that you're on the team that goes there next, so it's great for Jos and I. It's where we grew up, it's where we started playing hockey, so definitely a cool experience and, you know, have a lot of family and people see you play."
The Swiss defensemen knew each other long before they met up in Nashville - they've actually been friends for most of their lives. Growing up in the same town, Weber and Josi crossed paths quite often with the older Weber actually playing with Josi's brother - who is also named Yannick - since they were at the same age level.
But even from a young age, Weber knew the younger Josi was talented, and it wasn't long before the future Preds captain was taking turns playing with the older kids. Josi and Weber did eventually play together at U-18 tournaments and the World Juniors while representing their country.
"I've known him since I was 6 or 7 years old, so it's definitely special for him as well," Weber said of Josi. "That's the rink we went to every day as kids, so it's going to be a cool atmosphere and kind of surreal to be back there playing against your former team."
Both Josi and Weber have had unique experiences in their hometowns before, with Weber skating in the 2009 World Championship in Bern and Josi facing off against the New York Rangers in the city when he was a member of SC Bern. Josi recalls that game against the Rangers falling heavily in favor of the NHL team, but what's to come in September will be on another level.
Video: Preds captain excited for 2020 Global Series
"It's pretty cool being part of an NHL team and going back to your hometown team where you grew up and played all your life," Josi said. "I played all throughout juniors with them and have so many cool memories from that team and from that city. It's pretty special."
Josi says he hasn't been approached by family or friends looking for tickets just yet, but he's confident he'll have a large contingent of fans sporting Predators Gold in just over 10-months' time.
And while there's still plenty of games to be played before the homecoming arrives, Josi can't help but imagine what it will be like to go back in this capacity - just a boy from Bern now captaining his own NHL club.
"My whole family's there, all my best friends are there, so I always love going back there and spending some time there," Josi said. "It's a beautiful country, and I'm definitely a proud Swiss. It's going to be emotional for sure."
For fans wishing to receive more information on attending the 2020 NHL Global Series, stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com in early 2020. Further details and available travel packages will be released at that time.