Photo by Clive Rose/Getty
Martin Erat (right), seen here playing for the Czech Republic in the Winter Olympics in February, will skate for his homeland again in this month's IIHF World Championship tournament in Riga, Latvia.
Though the Predators' playoff run ended Sunday, at least five members of the team aren't putting their sticks and skates in summer storage just yet. Defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter
and forwards Martin Erat
, Adam Hall and Scott Hartnell are making their way to Riga, Latvia to play for their respective homelands in the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.
"I'm going over there [Wednesday] and I'm just pretty excited to represent my country, play hard and contribute in any way possible," said Hartnell, who will suit up for Canada along with Hamhuis. Hall and Suter will play for the U.S. while Erat will represent the Czech Republic.
"I'll get a little bit longer season and see what's going to happen," Erat said Tuesday afternoon as the Predators were undergoing exit physicals and final meetings before dispersing for the summer. "It's something different. Different hockey. It's going to be fun."
Erat, who raised his international stock with a strong performance with the Czechs in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, may be joined by Nashville defenseman Marek Zidlicky. The offensively gifted blueliner has a sore shoulder to rehabilitate but was mulling an invite.
Four Predators--Steve Sullivan (Canada), Paul Kariya (Canada), Scott Walker (Canada) and Mark Eaton (U.S.A.)--declined invitations to play.
Preliminary play for the annual international tournament begins Friday, May 5. A qualification round follows starting May 11, then semifinals and a medal round between the top four qualifiers take place on May 20-21. For more information on the event, visit its official Web site at http://www.ihwc2006.lv/.
Here are the off-season plans for several Predators players:
Jerred Smithson: "I'm going back to Vernon, B.C.--born and raised there. Not [going to do] too much. Just keep working out, maybe a little golf here and there and try to work on the tan. [Laughs]"
David Legwand: "Surgery. I'm going to get surgery and that's about it." [Legwand will have surgery on Tuesday, May 9 to repair a torn knee ligament and will rehabilitate for four to six months afterward.]
Scott Hartnell: "I've got a big wedding in the middle of July with my fiancee, and a honeymoon in Hawaii for a quick week afterward. Other than that not too much. Just going to be spending the summer in Minnesota."
Vern Fiddler: "I just purchased a house back home (Edmonton, Alta.) on a lake there. I'll get back to getting settled in. We enjoy watersports and stuff like that. Probably do that a lot this summer."
Darcy Hordichuk: "I might stick around here for a while. I've got a couple of different charity events that I'll go back to Canada for, in my hometown there (Kamsack, Sask.). Just kind of play it by ear from there."
Scott Nichol: "I'll spend it with family. I'm away quite a bit and we've got two little boys, so it'll be nice to spend a lot of time with them."
Steve Sullivan: "Just going to go back home to Canada (Timmins, Ont.) and spend some down time with the family."
Chris Mason: "We're expecting our first child at the end of June, so that's our plan. We're just deciding right now if we're going to stick around here or go back home (Red Deer, Alta.) and have it there. Basically our whole summer is going to be planned around that."
Brendan Witt: "I'll just go back home to Florida and refresh with my family. Start training. That's about it."
Paul Kariya: "I'm going back to California in a couple weeks and just relaxing. I'll start working out pretty soon."