PLYMOUTH, Mich. – For two decades, choosing the American men’s Olympic hockey team has been pretty simple, based on selecting the best of the best in the National Hockey League.
Now, USA Hockey is talking about a developing player pool and looking at the depth of American-born players around the world as the organization begins to prepare for the 2018 Games.
Tony Granato, the current head coach at Wisconsin and himself a former Olympian, was named the team’s head coach at a press conference at USA Hockey Arena, Friday morning.
Jim Johannson was named the general manager for the Olympic team.
“I’m looking forward to putting together a team that can compete for a medal,” Granato said. “Our depth is at the greatest point for USA hockey. We have world-class Americans playing all over the world. I’m looking forward to finding the best 25 that will represent our country with pride, passion and energy.”
Johannson said he has already spoken with about 80 players to find out their level of interest and determine various contract obligations. The immediate order of business is to get all those players registered with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and into the anti-doping protocol in order to be eligible for the Olympics.
USA Hockey will then compete in the The Deutschland Cup in Germany in November and start to comprise a working roster.
“We will play in that tournament with primarily European-based players,” Johannson said. “We’ll have 27-30 players in that tournament to play the three games. That will provide an avenue for the coaches to be around the players in the Europe pool and use that as a basis to build out where we think we’re headed roster-wise. Then we can factor in NCAA players and American Hockey League players as they’re available.”
Also, forget any dreams of a last-minute deal to add NHL players to Team USA.
“We will honor our NHL partnership,” Johannson said. “It’s very straight forward. Players on the NHL registry are not eligible. We don’t anticipate any changes in that.”
Granato was an assistant coach for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and played for the U.S. in seven international competitions, including the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the 1991 Canada Cup and three IIHF Men’s World Championships (1985, 1986, 1987).
Granato said the depth in American hockey will be an asset in moving forward in this post-NHL player Olympiad along with the success and experience U.S. teams have had in international competition at various levels.
“We’ve competed for medals. Entering the World Juniors or any international tournament, we expect to compete for a medal,” Granato said. “This will be no different. We haven’t played with the NHL for some time. This is an opportunity for a different pool of players and I think these players will be exceptionally talented.”
Assistant coaches will include former Sabres head coach Ron Rolston along with Keith Allain, Chris Chelios and Scott Young.