Seldom before has summer been so busy for Tobias Rieder. The German is one of up to 12 players who are expected to play for their national teams in the Final Olympic Qualification next week before uniting for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
The 23-year-old winger is among the next generation in German hockey. The Landshut native recently concluded his second full NHL season with the Arizona Coyotes and despite his young age has already represented his country in three IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships with the men’s national team after seven World Championship events as a junior, U20 and U18, top division and the tier below.
After weeks of off-ice training he will join the national team in Mannheim for the preparation camp before the Final Olympic Qualification. Germany will compete in Group E in Riga against Latvia, Austria and Japan. During the weekend the team will play two exhibition games in Minsk with France and Belarus before travelling to the Latvian capital next week.
Last time the men’s national team missed out on qualifying for the Olympics in Sochi, the first time since the period surrounding World War II. This time, the Germans are desperate to make things right and earn their ticket for PyeongChang 2018.
After the tournament Rieder will join up with Team Europe, a squad with some of the best European players from outside the top-four European hockey countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden). Stars from eight different countries will shape Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
Once your season was over with the Arizona Coyotes and the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship you have been busy following your long-time teammate Tom Kuhnhackl chasing the Stanley Cup. How was this time for you?
We’ve played together since we started skating at three or four years. I was there on-site and I phoned with him before and after every game. There’s nothing better than following the Stanley Cup final on-site.
You also took part in the Stanley Cup ceremony in your common hometown of Landshut.
Yes, of course. We were also preparing together in the city for the new season.
The new season starts for you now as you are preparing with the German national team for the Final Olympic Qualification. How do you see your chances?
I think our chances are good. We have a strong team and if we can reach our potential we have a good chance to win the Olympic Qualification.
For the last three Olympics Latvia won its Olympic Qualification tournament on home ice. It probably won’t be that easy for your team in Riga when facing the home team on the last day.
Of course it’s good when a team has home-ice advantage and we can’t change that. We just have to perform well and then we can win against them.
Right after the Olympic Qualification you’ll travel to the World Cup of Hockey where you will represent Team Europe.
I’m enormously looking forward to this tournament. During the NHL season I saw how important it is taken there and how much they do to promote it. It will be an interesting tournament and it’s an honour that I’m able to play for Team Europe. It will be fun.
How have you experienced Team Europe so far and got in touch with the staff?
At the World Championship in Russia I met [GM] Miroslav Satan and [head coach] Ralph Krueger and talked with them. Otherwise it was mostly via e-mail. Straight after the Olympic Qualification we will meet in Quebec City for our preparation.
You will play the Olympic Qualification at the end of next week. Will you fly straight from there to North America?
Yes, it’s the plan to fly the next day from Riga to Quebec City.
How do you imagine being with Team Europe with so many players from different countries and with different languages?
I imagine it like a normal NHL team where you also have players from many different countries. It will be for us like any other international tournament just that it will be best-on-best. I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s probably not easy to predict results for the first time, but what expectations do you have at the World Cup?
I was thinking about that too. Judging from the names we have a great team on paper but it’s difficult to rate the team now. I think everything will be possible.
You come from a classic German hockey town and made it to the NHL in Arizona. How was it for you to play in a city with a desert climate?
It’s super. You go to the rink in shorts, it’s always beautiful weather. You’re also not recognized on the streets that much so you have a certain degree of freedom.
What about the upcoming NHL season? You’re a restricted free agent after three years with the Coyotes organization.
It looks good. We’re negotiating and I think in the next days or weeks we will know more.
So will you stay in Arizona?
I can’t say it like that. I think yes but it’s not 100 per cent sure yet.