At the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, Italy had a rough run, finishing last overall with seven straight losses and a tournament-low 11-41 goal difference. But since there was no relegation, the Italians are back to battle for their top division spot again. They’re ranked 16th in the IIHF World Ranking.
Petan – a 30-year-old import from Delta, British Columbia who formerly captained Michigan Tech and was a 2016 Hobey Baker finalist – is a key piece of the puzzle as an assistant captain and offensive catalyst.
The brother of NHLer Nic Petan, he’s played all over Europe, most recently with Hungary’s Fehervar AV19 for the last two seasons. Petan racked up 43 points in 44 EBEL games this year, adding another 11 points in 13 post-season games. In Helsinki, the talented playmaker is thrilled to get to play with his cousin Dante Hannoun, a 2019 WHL champion with the Prince Albert Raiders, who now plays for Italy’s HC Pustertal.
IIHF.com caught up with Petan after the game against Canada.
Last year, Italy lost 7-1 to Canada and was down 4-0 just 12 minutes in. This year, you held Canada scoreless for nearly 16 minutes and actually led 1-0 on Phil Pietroniro’s goal. How much pride do you take in things like that?
It’s a brand-new year, brand-new team, a lot of new faces this year. You know, our first-time World Championship guys didn't really know what to expect. We were just really excited to play against Canada in general. And you know what? We came out to a great start. Getting that first goal of the game was really exciting for us. And we just battled to the end. I thought we did a lot of good things out there.
Canada inserted Mat Barzal of the New York Islanders into the lineup today. Growing up in the Vancouver area, how well do you know him?
Dante and I grew up with Mat. We skated together since we were little kids. It’s great to see how he’s evolved as a hockey player and his successes in his career. It’s really fun to watch. For the first time playing against him, it was a lot of fun, you know, a couple chirps here and there. But you know it's gonna be a good time in the summer when we get back together.
And just how much fun is it playing with Dante, especially getting an assist on his first goal against Switzerland on Day One?
Obviously, it was super-exciting, getting his first goal in the World Championships and being able to help out on it. It's just kind of a surreal moment, being family. The oldest and youngest cousins, as hockey players, are finally getting a chance to play together.
To see your brother Nic getting his shot with the Canucks organization this year, what did that mean to you?
Oh, that's another pretty surreal moment! It was the first time he was kind of a free agent this summer. We had a lot of conversations. He called me a bunch of times and kept saying Vancouver was really interested. Getting a chance to play for our hometown, at any level, it’s a great opportunity. And he went with it. I thought he did a real good job down in Abbotsford, playing really well, and getting the last couple of months up with the big club. I tried to watch him as much as I could. He was really happy with his year, and I'm really excited to get together with him this summer as well.
This is your second year at this tournament. What did you learn from the 2021 experience?
You learn about the level, what to expect. You know, there’s something wrong if you're not nervous before any game, but I think the nerves are a little bit more calm this year Being a veteran guy, you know a little bit more what to expect from these big clubs, especially. But we’ve got our eyes set on the games we really need to focus on. As leaders, you gotta show the first-time guys how it's done and lead by example.
How does it feel to have fans in the building again?
Oh, it’s great! Obviously, it was a little bit different last year, having those cardboard fans out there. You know, they weren't that loud. [laughs] But seriously, it's great seeing people in the stands, outside, around the hotels. It’s just a cool feeling overall.
How would you describe Italian head coach Greg Ireland’s strengths?
He’s super-organized. His system works really, really well. We learned from that last year. And we're building on it this year each and every day. We're working on the video and in practice when we can. It’s just a rock-solid system. I think if everyone buys in, we're gonna have some success. I really enjoy his coaching style.
You play in Hungary professionally. Hungary and Slovenia are bidding for the World Championship jointly in 2023. What would that be like if it came to fruition?
Obviously being with [Fehervar AV19] for the last couple years, pretty well our whole team is on that Hungarian national team. I was really happy to see those guys succeed and be able to move up to the top division next year. And what we're focused on is staying up in that top division. In any scenario, it’d be a pretty cool experience playing against my teammates next year, so it's important for us to do our job and to join them there.