Aaron Ekbladrecalls that Team North America’s memorable run at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 began with the collection of 23-and-under players from the United States and Canada coming together quickly at their training camp in Montreal.
During a video call reunion of Team North America last week that premieres Thursday on Sportsnet at 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET on NHL.com and the NHL Facebook, IGTV and YouTube platforms, the Florida Panthers defenseman said experienced players such as Chicago Blackhawks forwardBrandon Saadand Vancouver Canucks forwardJ.T. Miller, who were each 23 at the time, took on leadership roles and the group found chemistry despite coming from two countries.
Saad helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. Miller played for the New York Rangers when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2014-15.
“I think we looked to [Saad] for some wisdom for sure,” Ekblad said. “It was great. I had [Vincent Trocheck] there from Florida. We got to kind of do it together, so it was pretty awesome. It ended up feeling pretty normal … getting together in Montreal and just doing what hockey players do.”
Trocheck, a forward who was traded by Florida to the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 24, 2020, also participated in the video call with Buffalo Sabres centerJack Eichel, Detroit Red Wings forwardDylan Larkin, Rangers defensemanJacob Troubaand Columbus Blue Jackets defensemanRyan MurrayAlthough nearly four years have passed since the World Cup of Hockey 2016, which was held in Toronto in September 2016, the bonds between the Team North America players remain.
Team North America won two of its three games in group play, defeating Team Finland 4-1, losing to Team Russia 4-3 and defeating Team Sweden 4-3 in overtime in one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Team North America failed to advance to the semifinals because it lost a head-to-head tiebreaker to Team Russia.
“I was a little unsure how the U.S. and the Canadian guys were going to mix,” said Larkin, who is American. “But we’re all young, we’re all at kind of the same points in our lives. It ended up working pretty well.”