The U.S. men’s hockey team will have more Olympic experience behind the bench than on the ice in PyeongChang.
Tony Granato, a 1988 Olympian, was named head coach on Friday.
His staff will include a big-name assistant — Chris Chelios, a four-time Olympian and Hockey Hall of Famer. Other assistants are three-time Olympian Scott Young and Keith Allain, a U.S. assistant coach in 1992 and 2006, and Ron Rolston.
Granato, currently the University of Wisconsin head coach, will become the first non-NHL head coach of a U.S. Olympic team since Miracle on Ice leader Herb Brooks‘ second stint in 2002.
“When the first call came in, lots of things come racing through your mind,” Granato said at a press conference.
The NHL is not sending players to the Olympics for the first time since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games. U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said there will be no consideration for individual NHL players seeking to defy the league’s no-Olympics stance.
“No, we’re obviously going to honor our NHL partnership,” Johannson said. “We don’t anticipate any changes in that.”
Johannson said he recently spoke with at least 80 American players in European leagues, the AHL and the NCAA about possibly being in the player pool for the final 25-man roster. Recent NHL players could also be chosen.
Johannson said a “long list” of potential players must be submitted in September. A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany.
“We’ll use that as kind of the basis to start to build out where we think we’re headed, roster-wise,” Johannson said. “Then we start to factor in the NCAA players available to us and the American Hockey League (AHL) players available to us.”
Granato, 53, scored one goal with seven assists at the 1988 Olympics, where the U.S. finished seventh without NHL participation. His younger sister, Cammi, captained the first U.S. Olympic women’s team to gold in 1998.
He went on to a 13-year NHL playing career, then coached the Colorado Avalanche on two occasions before returning to USA Hockey as an assistant under Dan Bylsma at the Sochi Olympics. The U.S. lost the bronze-medal game in Sochi.
Chelios, 55, is one of two U.S. men to play at four Olympics (Keith Tkachuk). The Hockey Hall of Famer and longtime Chicago Blackhawks defenseman suited up at the Winter Games in 1984, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
In 2006, a 44-year-old Chelios became the oldest Olympic ice hockey player since 1928. Since retiring in 2010, he has worked in the Detroit Red Wings front office and was a U.S. assistant coach at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
“[Chelios] is probably skating somewhere thinking we’re asking him to play as well,” Granato joked Friday. “He’s probably going to apply for the player/assistant coaching position.”
Chelios will not be the only 1990s superstar in PyeongChang.
Mike Richter and Martin Brodeur, each three-time Olympic goalies who were in opposing nets in the 2002 Olympic final, have roles with USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, respectively.
Richter is an assistant with the U.S. women’s team, while Brodeur is part of the Canadian men’s team’s management group. Canada’s head coach is former Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins.
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