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2019 World Championship Journal: Taking Off for the Tournament

by Brady Skjei | @BradySkjei

From now until the conclusion of the 2019 IIHF Men's Ice Hockey World Championship, Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei will be documenting his experience on and off the ice as he competes in the tournament for the first time alongside fellow Blueshirts Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. Follow along with his journey right here, and on Twitter (@NYRangers) and Instagram (@nyrangers). 

Yesterday was the big day: We hit the road for the 2019 World Championship.

On Friday, to get ready, Kreids and I went to the NHL Network headquarters in the city to talk about what it'll be like to go to Slovakia and play for Team USA. I've never actually been to that part of the country, so Kreids and I did a little research online. The town that we're staying in, Košice, looks like it's got a few really good restaurants and definitely stuff to keep us busy, so we're looking forward to it. Video: Kreider, Skjei on Team USA at World Championship

I've been to Slovakia one time, but it was a town in the western part of the country called Piestany. Kosice is on the eastern side near the Hungarian border so it'll be a lot different from what I've seen before, which is exciting and I'm looking forward to it. 

Before we head out to Slovakia, we're going to Germany so we can get in a few days of practice as a team and play in a few exhibition games. We all flew out of Newark together at 7:30 AM Saturday morning, so I guess Kreids and I had it pretty easy since we already live so close. I think I probably know almost every guy on the team this year - there's maybe two or three guys I haven't met, but all the younger guys I definitely know from playing in other USA Hockey events and just being in the league for a few years. 

Deciding to play in Worlds this year wasn't a tough decision, especially after I saw some of the other guys who were starting to commit. Toward the end of the regular season, my agent called me and said Chris Drury - the Team USA general manager who's actually assistant GM of the Rangers - asked if I would go. I knew the U.S. would be a good team, so I definitely wanted to be a part of it. 

There's obviously a lot of talent on every country's roster this year, but I'm really confident in our group. Our goal and our expectation is to win gold. Chris and all the other managers of the team did a great job putting together one of the best, if not the best, rosters for the tournament in a while. 

It's an impressive group - Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat from the Blackhawks, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Hughes from the U.S. National Team Development Program… I could name every guy. There's so much talent, so definitely, our goal and expectation right now is to win the tournament and hopefully bring home a gold medal. 

I'm obviously excited Kreids is coming, too. In a tournament like this, whenever you have familiarity with a guy, it makes you more comfortable. You just kind of know where he's going to be on the ice, what he's like, his strengths, where he wants the puck. With Kreids, I've been playing with him for over three years now, and I know he's a guy who's got a ton of speed and likes to play physical, so if I can get him pucks stretching out of the zone and using his speed, I definitely will try to do that. 

One guy I'm definitely looking forward to getting to know a little better is Adam Fox. When I saw that we traded for him and then signed him earlier this week, I was pumped. Me and Kreids are going to be the first guys on the team who get a chance to play with him, which is pretty cool, so we'll definitely treat him well and make him feel welcome. 

I've actually met him once before, during my rookie season in New York. I went to a Harvard hockey game with Jimmy Vesey, and Foxy was obviously there playing. Afterward, we went down to the locker room and I ran into him and said hi. I definitely know about him from watching World Junior games and all that, and even during that Harvard game I watched, he was a player who stood out. Definitely pumped to have him. 

I'll check in next week after we get a couple exhibition games out of the way. Thanks for following along, RangersTown. 

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