Coyotes’ Conor Garland heading to 1st world championship with Team USA

May 13, 2021, 9:02 AM
Arizona Coyotes' Conor Garland moves the puck during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game...

Arizona Coyotes' Conor Garland moves the puck during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

After a standout year with the Arizona Coyotes, Conor Garland will be among the 26 players representing the U.S. at the Hockey World Championship in Riga, Latvia, this summer.

The forward said Monday that he had zero hesitation accepting the offer from USA Hockey to make his International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) debut.

“I probably set the record for fastest reply, telling them I would come,” Garland joked via Zoom. “I was extremely excited. It’s a big deal. I talked to some guys here who have gone in the past and how much fun they had and I also talked to some Europeans. It’s obviously viewed a lot differently over there.

“World Championships, you don’t hear much about it here, but over there it’s viewed as kind of everything. It’s a big deal. I look forward to being able to go over there and perform on a bigger stage and play to my capabilities.”

Garland recorded 12 goals and 27 assists over 49 games in the 2020-21 season, matching a career-high 39 points he set last year. This time around, however, he did it in 19 less games.

Team USA, led by associate coach of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators Jack Capuano, heads to Riga on May 16 with their first game slated for May 22 against Finland.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” Garland said. “You’re going to play some really good teams, Canada, Finland. There’s going to be some countries that aren’t well known for hockey but there’s some terrific players over there and they play hard. You’re not going to get any bad games.

“I’m just excited to wear the USA jersey for the first time. I think it’s an opportunity for me to be able to go over there and show what I’m capable of doing as a player.”

Garland will face teammates Darcy Kuemper, Adin Hill and Michael Bunting in the second preliminary game on May 23 when Team USA goes up against Team Canada. Coyotes legend Shane Doan will be serving as an assistant for Canada.

When Bunting was notified that he was going to be playing for Team Canada, he got the call directly from Doan — a whirlwind of an experience for the young forward.

“I was more probably shocked on that phone call more than anything when he gave me it,” Bunting said.

“I told him I’m absolutely looking forward to representing my country and I can’t wait to get started. He had nothing but good things to say about me. It was a great conversation.”

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