One week from Thursday, Wild players report for the start of training camp.

Afternoon from Minneapolis. Today, believe it or not, is my 10-year anniversary at the Star Tribune and I suppose officially begins my 11th season covering the Wild and 21st year covering the NHL (including the 2004-05 lockout).

So, yes, I have now officially covered the Wild longer than America's team, the Florida Panthers.

Down at Braemar Ice Arena, the fellas are pretty much all back in town. In fact, many have been skating there since Aug. 17. There was a time in the NHL when players used training camp to get in shape. That is definitely no longer the case.

Pretty much the only players not yet in town are Mikael Granlund, Christian Folin and Nino Niederreiter, who's in Portland doing his usual pre-camp power skating instruction with his old junior team and many of the minor-leaguers or bubble players.

Today, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Michael Keranen joined the fray.

Two young guys continue to stand out to me. Defenseman Matt Dumba is a thoroughbred in these skates. He's flying and basically leads many rushes, essentially taking advantage of the freelancing that can occur when coaches aren't allowed in the rink. Tyler Graovac looks like he'll really make a push for a job.

Erik Haula looks like he's intent to put last year behind him and Thomas Vanek is lighter by seven or eight pounds and is skating well in large part to his repaired groin and working with skating guru Diane Ness.

Also, check out tomorrow's paper and my blog later. I talked this week with Niklas Backstrom. I overwrote the article, so check out the blog later as well because some of the stuff I chop from the article I'll post on the blog.

As the players were getting out of the locker room this morning, the World Cup of Hockey schedule and info came out. Most interesting was the best two out of three final, which really excited Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

Still, opinions are split as to whether the all under-23 team and the European team takes away from the tournament's luster or it helps. Parise, for one, thinks the competition will be better than the Olympics because it's all NHLers and doesn't include some of the smaller nations. Some players think it takes away from the Olympic feel of the World Cup.

Here's some information on the tournament (cut and pastes from NHL press releases):

2016 WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED

        Finalists Will Vie for Championship in Best-of-Three Series

         All Games Will Be Played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

                        Tickets Go on Sale Oct. 14


        TORONTO (Sept. 9, 2015) – The National Hockey League (NHL®) and the
National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced today the
schedule for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. From Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016,
eight teams – Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Finland, Team Russia,
Team Sweden, Team USA, Team Europe and Team North America – will compete in
a best-on-best international hockey championship.

        The two-week tournament, featuring more than 150 of the best players
in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and
ultimately the Final. All tournament games will be played at Air Canada
Centre in Toronto, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs®. A select number
of tickets for the event will go on sale to the public Wednesday, Oct. 14
at Ticketmaster.ca. Click here to sign up for ticket information,
announcements and special offers.

        The eight teams are split into two Groups, Group A and Group B, for
the Preliminary Round (Sept. 17-22), when each team will play its three
Group opponents in a round-robin format. Placed in Group A are Team Canada,
Team Czech Republic and Team USA, plus Team Europe, a pan-European roster
of players from birth countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland,
Russia and Sweden. The four teams in Group B are Team Finland, Team Russia,
Team Sweden and Team North America, a selection of the top players from
Canada and the United States who are 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016.

        The Preliminary Round schedule will put the spotlight on two of
international hockey’s fiercest rivalries on Tuesday, Sept. 20, when Team
Canada and Team USA face off in Group A and Team Finland and Team Sweden
meet in Group B.

        North American archrivals Canada and the United States have faced off
for the top prize in several international finals, including the 1991
Canada Cup, 1996 World Cup of Hockey, 2002 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games
and the 2004 and 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships. The Nordic powers
Finland and Sweden have met in the finals of the 1995 and 2011 IIHF World
Championships, the 2006 Olympic Winter Games and the 2014 IIHF World Junior
Championships.

        The top two finishers in Group A and Group B will advance to the
Semifinals (Sept. 24-25), where the first-place team from each Group will
face an elimination game against the second-place team from the other
Group. The two Semifinal winners will meet in the Final, a best-of-three
series on Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and, if necessary, Oct. 1.

        Live coverage of all tournament games will be provided by Sportsnet
and TVA Sports in Canada and ESPN in the United States. A complete
broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.

2016 World Cup of Hockey Schedule
All Times Eastern (GMT -5)
All Games Played at Air Canada Centre, Toronto

Group A Group B
Team Canada     Team Finland
Team Czech Republic     Team North America
Team Europe     Team Russia
Team USA        Team Sweden

Preliminary Round (round robin)

   Saturday, Sept. 17
   Team Europe vs. Team USA, 3:30 p.m.
   Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m.

   Sunday, Sept. 18
   Team Russia vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
   Team Finland vs. Team North America, 8 p.m.

   Monday, Sept. 19
   Team Czech Republic vs. Team Europe, 3 p.m.
   Team North America vs. Team Russia, 8 p.m.

   Tuesday, Sept. 20
   Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
   Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.

   Wednesday, Sept. 21
   Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
   Team Canada vs. Team Europe, 8 p.m.

   Thursday, Sept. 22
   Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m.
   Team Czech Republic vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.

Semifinals (single elimination; A1 vs. B2, B1 vs. A2)

   Saturday, Sept. 24
   Semifinal 1, TBD

   Sunday, Sept. 25
   Semifinal 2, TBD


Final (best-of-three)

   Tuesday, Sept. 27
   Final Game 1, 8 p.m.

   Thursday, Sept. 29
   Final Game 2, 8 p.m.

   Saturday, Oct. 1
   Final Game 3, 7 p.m. (if necessary)

2016 WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


What is the 2016 World Cup of Hockey?
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will feature eight teams competing for a
best-on-best international hockey championship: The eight teams
participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey are Team Canada, Team Czech
Republic, Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden, Team USA, Team Europe and
Team North America. It is expected that more than 150 of the best players
in the NHL will participate in this tournament.

Who is organizing the tournament?
The tournament is a joint effort of the National Hockey League Players’
Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL®), in cooperation with
the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

Under whose rules will the tournament be staged?
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will be played on NHL-sized rinks using NHL
rules and officiated by NHL officials. Other competition matters – such as
the anti-doping policy governing the tournament, the framework and
procedure for supplementary discipline, the medical protocols, media and
broadcasting policies and access, etc. – will be the responsibility of the
NHL and NHLPA in consultation with third parties, including the IIHF, where
appropriate.

When and where will the tournament be staged?
The tournament will take place over a two-week period, from Sept. 17 – Oct.
1, 2016. All games will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of
the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs®.

When do tickets go on sale to the general public?
A select number of tickets for the event will go on sale to the public
Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Ticketmaster.ca. Click here to sign up for ticket
information, announcements and special offers.

How many players will each team have?
Each of the eight teams will have a roster of 23 players: 20 skaters and
three goaltenders.

What is the tournament format?
The eight teams will be divided into two Groups of four, and each will
compete in three tournament games within their assigned Group in a
round-robin format. The top two finishers in Group A and Group B will
advance to a single-game Semifinal, where the first-place team from each
Group will face an elimination game against the second-place team from the
other Group. Winners of the Semifinal games will advance to a best-of-three
Final series.

        Group A Group B
        Team Canada     Team Finland
        Team Czech Republic     Team North America
        Team Europe     Team Russia
        Team USA        Team Sweden

Who is eligible to be selected for Team North America?
The players for Team North America will be selected from a pool of the best
young hockey players from Canada and the United States. Those players must
be 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016 (i.e., must have a date of birth on or
after Oct. 2, 1992) and will be available for selection exclusively by Team
North America.

Who is eligible to be selected for Team Canada and Team USA?
As North American players 23-and-under will be available for selection
exclusively by Team North America (see above), each player for Team Canada
and Team USA must be 24 or older by no later than Oct. 1, 2016 (i.e., must
have a date of birth of Oct. 1, 1992 or earlier).

Who is eligible to be selected for Team Europe?
Team Europe will be comprised of a pan-European roster of players from
birth countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden –
in short, all of the other European countries who are developing
world-class hockey players in ever-increasing numbers. Countries such as
Austria, Belarus, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia,
Slovenia and Switzerland (among others) will all be eligible for
representation on Team Europe.

Who will select the rosters for Team Europe and Team North America?
Team Europe and Team North America each will have its own management team,
appointed jointly by the NHL and NHLPA. The respective management teams
will make roster selections.

The management team for Team North America is Edmonton Oilers President/GM
Peter Chiarelli and Chicago Blackhawks Vice President/GM Stan Bowman. The
management team for Team Europe is German Ice Hockey Federation President
Franz Reindl and former Slovakia team captain Miroslav Satan.

What is the roster announcement timeline?
Each National Association (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden,
United States) and the management teams for Team Europe and Team North
America must announce at least 16 members of its roster, including at least
two goaltenders, no later than March 1, 2016, with the balance of each
team’s roster to be announced no later than June 1, 2016.

Will the tournament have a dedicated website?
Yes. Launching on Sept. 9, 2015, WCH2016.com will serve as the official and
most comprehensive and timely source of tournament news and information.

Will teams stage training camps and play exhibition games prior to the 2016
World Cup of Hockey?
Yes. Information on locations and dates for these events will be announced
when finalized.

Who will be providing live coverage of the games?
Sportsnet has exclusive English-language media rights and TVA Sports the
exclusive French-language media rights in Canada to the 2016 World Cup of
Hockey. The deal covers all tournament games and includes television,
online and mobile rights. ESPN owns the exclusive U.S. media rights on
television and radio, with most games to appear on ESPN and ESPN2. ESPN
International has the exclusive rights in over 20 countries served by its
Pacific Rim and Latin North networks. Additionally, live access to coverage
of the event on ESPN networks will be available through WatchESPN on
computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple
TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One via an affiliated video
provider.

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