For Sens defenceman Christian Wolanin, the opportunity to join Team USA at the upcoming World Hockey Championship in Slovakia this week is yet another opportunity for him to follow in his father's footsteps while he continues to carve out his own hockey path.
Christian's dad Craig, who played in 695 games over 13 seasons in the NHL, skated in three World Championships overseas as a member of Team USA and even captained the squad to a 4th place finish in 1994.
"My dad was fortunate enough to play in three tournaments with Team USA," Wolanin said. "From the moment I told him the news, he's been saying how cool it's going to be over there and how it's a life changing experience. It's been really great to share this with him so far since he basically had the same experience when he was coming up in the NHL."
The offer to join Team USA was a bit of a surprise for Wolanin. Not that his addition to USA Hockey's national squad wasn't warranted but the news was given to him from a familiar face from his hockey past.
"I got a call from John Vanbiesbrouck who was actually my general manager in Muskegon where I played my last year and a half of junior hockey," recalled Wolanin. "Truthfully, I kind of went blank on the fact that he works for USA Hockey now so when he called I had no idea why. Thankfully he got right to it and broke the news to me that they were going to add me, Adam Fox and Jack Hughes as the last three players to their roster. Obviously there's no way I'm going to pass up an opportunity like that."
Wolanin, who maintains dual citizenship in Canada and the United States, had yet to make his international debut for either country but shared that given his father's tenure with the national team and his own experience growing up in America that he's excited to join Team USA.
"I was born in Quebec City but raised in the States and I've never represented either country in any kind of international play," he said. "I know it's tough to say it in a Canadian hockey market like Ottawa but it was a pretty easy choice for me to accept Team USA's offer."
The Senators will be well represented when the puck drops on May 10th as Wolanin joins several of the team's young players in Slovakia including Thomas Chabot, USA teammate Colin White, Christian Jaros and Rudolfs Balcers as well as tournament veteran Mikkel Boedker.
"Those were some of the first guys to text me," said Wolanin about the bond between the young Sens. "It's funny to think about seeing Jaros on the other side in a Slovakia jersey or a guy like Balcers who I lived with at the hotel in Ottawa for a couple months and traveled up and down with from Belleville represent Latvia. It's going to be a really cool experience and from talking with the other guys, we're really looking forward to also representing the Ottawa Senators at the tournament."
This will also mark Wolanin's first experience visiting Europe but before he reaches out to fellow Sens defender Christian Jaros for a tour, who's hometown of Kosice is one of the host cities for the tournament, there is some business to take care of first.
"We play Slovakia in the first game of the tournament so we'll see how he acts out there," Wolanin joked. "If we don't get into it too bad on the ice maybe he can show me around the city on an off day."
Wolanin also shared that he will sport his familiar #86 for Team USA which is fitting as he's approaching this tournament as an opportunity to continue his first full professional season. His 70 games this year split between Ottawa and Belleville are nearly double what he would typically play during his three years at the University of North Dakota and he believes that this type of experience could really help to set him up for success next season in Ottawa.
"We talked a lot about getting NHL experience this year so I think extending that into this tournament which is full of some of the best NHL players in the world will be huge for me," he said. "It's a great opportunity to represent my country and to continue to build my resume so I'm pretty excited to have the chance to play for Team USA in Slovakia and continue my development at the same time."
"And anytime you get to represent the Ottawa Senators it's an honour," he continued. "Now I get the chance to represent my country on an international stage which is something not a lot of people get to do."
The 2019 World Hockey Championship kicks off this Friday in Slovakia and will see Wolanin and the 5 other Senators hit the ice this weekend. You can check out the full tournament schedule here.