Lightning TV’s Brian Engblom on what to expect at World Championships

This year’s Ice Hockey Federation World Championships open Friday in Czechia, and Lightning TV color analyst Brian Engblom will be front and center broadcasting 30 tournament games in 13 days for TSN. (Select TSN broadcasts will be shown in the United States on NHL Network.)

On the eve of the tournament’s opening, the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Engblom from Ostrava, where he will provide color for Team USA’s Group B opener against Sweden. There will be Lightning representation on both teams, as Mikey Eyssimont plays for Team USA and Victor Hedman is on Team Sweden. Tampa Bay forwards Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel also will be playing for Team Canada in Group A.

Here’s Engblom’s take on covering worlds for the second straight year, how the game is different, and what to watch for (some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity):

On how the 13-foot wider international rink affects the game:

I was talking to (Team USA and Blue Jackets defenseman) Zach Werenski, and they only played one pre-tournament game in Bratislava and then came here and he went, ‘Oh my goodness, I was beat. I was so tired at the end of the game.’ Just because of the extra width of the ice.

Forwards love it because they get more room to work. Yeah, they’ve got to skate a little more, but it’s an advantage for them. For the defensemen, it’s a nightmare. You can’t get split too far. You’ve got to know where you are on the ice. You can’t get running into the corner because it’s a long way back to the front of the net. You have no idea. That puck ends up back in the slot and you’re still in the corner, good luck. You’re done.

So we were talking about things like that, even like the way the game is played. You know how everybody rims the puck around in the offensive zone? Well, it takes a lot longer. He said we went to cut the puck off and he said he must have missed it by 5 feet. ... So there are some definite things there that are different but it’s mostly for the defensemen. ...

If you’re a defenseman, in particular, you’ve got to play inside the dots and you’ve got to know where you are. You can’t start running around. We played against the Russians in 1983 … and we’re like, ‘Oh my god, are you kidding me?’ They ran us around.

On a stacked Team USA roster full of elite NHL talent:

We talked to (the Senators’) Brady Tkachuk for a second and he’s got a smile from ear to ear because right now he’s playing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau (Blue Jackets) and Cole Caufield (Canadiens). Those two dangle all over the place, can shoot the puck, and he’s going to go from the corner to the front of the net like he always does. On the power play, there’s more ice and more space, so the Johnny Gaudreaus, guys like that, are going to be outstanding.

Will Smith, the young kid from Boston College who was drafted by San Jose last year, he really dangles. Trevor Zegras (Ducks) is another guy here. But also the defense. They’ve got Seth Jones (Blackhawks), Werenski, Luke Hughes (Devils), Jeff Petry (Red Wings), Jake Sanderson (Senators), I mean some really mobile guys. They’ve got Alex Vlasic, a young kid from the Chicago Blackhawks. … Luke Hughes, look at the impact he’s had already in the NHL.

So you’ve got the Olympics coming up in the near future, so long term, you know that the people at USA Hockey are saying we need some young blood in there, too.

On Victor Hedman’s return to international play for first time since 2017:

Last year, Sweden was a very structured team. Victor Hedman’s point totals in all the games that he’s played in World Championships on the big ice surface are very low (seven points in 27 games) because they play a very structured game. So he doesn’t get a lot of the same sort of opportunities as he did in the NHL.

So it’s very different, and the Swedes certainly are like that. The Germans, I remember, were very structured. I think everybody will be now. But who knows? You get a hot goaltender, and these are single-game situations, right? Anything can happen in any game. You can lose the game here or there but you’d be surprised how quickly you can get in trouble, points-wise.

On the experience of broadcasting the World Championships:

The environment is just so unique. There’s a lot of fun, but it’s also incredibly intense. We’ll do 30 games in 13 days. We’ll do at least two games every day, and four times you do three games a day. ... I’m going to be with (TSN play-by-play broadcaster) Bryan Mudryk. We’ll sit down and we’ll get going and I think this will be the 25th play-by-play guy I’ve worked with in my career. So I’ll just listen for a bit, get his rhythm, his cadence a little bit and then we just go. He’ll be doing the same thing with me.

The first three days, that’s actually the hardest, because they’ll do eight games in three days. You really hit the wall then; I remember that from last time. The jetlag and everything starts to kick in a little bit. I’m feeling a little bit today (Thursday). It was an 18-hour travel day yesterday through three planes, a train and two taxis to get here. I can’t tell you how spoiled I was traveling nine years with the Lightning. ...

But just the whole environment of the tournament. Yeah, it’s a short tournament, but the intensity is huge. Last year, you had Team USA and Sweden, the disappointment of two good teams than didn’t even medal. And it’s one thing to say, ‘Well, we kind of wanted to win but we got a bronze.’ But when you end up with fourth or sixth place, you go home with your tail between your legs. It’s tough. There’s pressure.

The pride of the countries and everything is very evident.

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