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Six Wild players participate in World Cup Media Day

Suter among contingent of Wild players prepping for tournament which begins Sept. 17

by Evan Sporer / Special to Wild.com

TORONTO - With a slew of Minnesota Wild players returning to the State of Hockey in preparation for the 2016-17 season, six found themselves in north of the border at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday for media day and the kickoff of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. 

All eight participating teams and their respective players were introduced on Thursday, with the tournament officially kicking off Saturday when the United States plays Team Europe (2:30 p.m. CT; ESPN2). 

It's a different kind of tune-up than a captain's practice, a training camp, or a preseason game, but preparation that these six Wild players feel could serve them well headed into October. 

"You want to focus on this tournament right now, but you can take something out of it, and use it to your advantage," Erik Haula said. "Every guy who's here, they're going to be playing games that are for sure more intense than maybe than training camp games. We'll be playing in at least six games, and everyone should just use that to your advantage."

All six Wild players in Toronto have varying levels of international experience, with Mikko Koivu the lone skater, and one of the few in the 2016 tournament, to have competed in a World Cup. 

"It's all the best players," Haula said. "It's at a time where not a lot of guys are going to be hurt coming off your offseason."

There is also little room for error or time to get comfortable.

"It's who can come together fastest," Ryan Suter said. "It's such a short tournament. The Olympics, it's a longer tournament, and you have more opportunities to get to the end. Here, you have to be ready to go from game one. 

"You can't afford a hiccup anywhere."

There's also just the simple nuance of the World Cup itself; aside from Koivu and a handful of other NHL players, it's a brand new concept. 

"For the majority of the people, having it be a first-time thing, I don't really know what to expect," Zach Parise said. "The lineup is different with the teams, with the Europe and North America, the unique setup. 

"It's one of those things where you're always just looking forward to representing your country, and playing, and playing best-on-best. I'm really looking forward to that."

Playing in a competitive tournament like this in lieu of a training camp could make for a smooth transition to the start of the regular season. 

"Obviously we got these three exhibition games so it makes it a little bit easier," Mikael Granlund said. "But at the same time, it's not the same as when we're playing in playoffs, and we've had the whole season to get ready for that. 

"But it's the same for every player, and everybody is in the same place. There's a lot of excitement, so I don't think that's going to be a big problem."

While the tournament itself is new, its format is also being tried for the first time. In addition to a North American team, made up of the best 23-and-under American and Canadian players, there is also a European team that features skaters from seven different countries.

"It's another great stage to represent yourself," said Nino Niederreiter, a Switzerland native playing for Team Europe. "Obviously for our team, it's kind of special because there are seven countries in one team, and everybody brings a different type of game; a different kind of culture into the team. 

"It's definitely a great opportunity for myself to showcase myself and get ready for the season to start."

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