A familiar face was seen walking around the press box at First Niagara Center while the Buffalo Sabres played the Edmonton Oilers last Tuesday. It was the first time that Miroslav Satan had visited his former home in, well, how long?
"The playoff series with Boston," he recalled. "I was there with Boston the last time, I think, so 2010."
That series, a six-game victory for the Boston Bruins over the Sabres, was Satan's last in the NHL. He went home to Slovakia to spend the next four seasons with Bratislava Slovan, the team he had played for during the 2004-05 lockout.
After a year off since his retirement from playing, however, Satan was back in town on business. He is the general manager of Team Europe for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and was scheduled to announce his preliminary 16-man roster in Toronto the following day.
Satan is the eighth-leading goal scorer in Sabres franchise history, accumulating 224 goals in eight seasons from 1997 to 2004, hitting the 40-goal plateau in 1998-99. He also played for Slovakia in two World Cups back in those days, in 1996 and 2004.
This year marks the first World Cup of Hockey since 2004, and it's been revived with a couple significant changes. This time there will be a North American team comprised of under-23 players from the United States and Canada as well as the European team compromised of European players who don't fall under the umbrella of Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic that Satan is in charge of assembling.
Satan is tasked with compiling a roster for the latter team, a process that needs to be completed by June 1. Notable names on Team Europe's initial 16-man roster include defenseman Zdeno Chara and forwards Anze Kopitar, Thomas Vanek and Marian Hossa.
"Right now, it's just picking the tools to help," Satan said. "I think we have [that] in our scouts and our coaches. Everybody now mostly [will do] some scouting, watching hockey, and then they get together and discuss things."
Satan said that one player who's been scouted form the very beginning to potentially make the team is Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, a native of Latvia. With seven roster spots remaining to fill, he didn't rule out the inclusion of Girgensons once the final roster is named.
Once the roster is submitted, the question becomes just how the North American and European teams will fare when the tournament begins in September. These teams don't have a single flag to unite them, and their opponents have already taken the ice together on an international stage.
But for all the intrigue surrounding it, Satan expects his team to be ready once they step out on the ice together for the first time.
"The format creates a big question mark, how these teams will do," he said. "I think everybody is curious about it. For us, it's very simple to put together the best team possible from all the European players and combine them into a strong, competitive team that will have a chance to beat anybody else in the tournament and do well."
And, while he admits that some fans might've already forgotten those World Cups that he was a part of over a decade ago, he thinks they'll be in for a treat when the tournament starts.
"I think it's an exciting tournament – high-level competition," he said. "It's all NHL players. I think everybody will want to win. It will be something to look [forward to] for all the fans of hockey around the world."