By Jacob Messing
The reality of a 2018 Winter Olympics without NHL players is sinking in after the recent announcement of the U.S. men’s national team’s coaching staff.
Last week, the brass for the United States named its coaches for the upcoming international tournament, starting with Wisconsin Badgers head coach Tony Granato, who will serve in the same role for Team USA.
Chris Chelios, Ron Rolston, Keith Allain, and Scott Young will join Granato behind the bench this coming February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
While the upcoming games will be the first without NHL participation since 1994, the coaches are no strangers to the enlarged ice and altered rules of international play.
USA Hockey officials have already stated their optimism for the team, even without the large base of NHL players from which they usually have to draw.
Part of that optimism stems from the plethora of players ready to prove themselves as NHL-ready talent when they represent the US on the world's biggest stage.
Another part is the impeccable resumes of its coaching staff. Each coach has shown the ability to get through to young players and get them to buy into their systems. Their strong careers will immediately earn them the respect of their Olympic team and they are largely known for their solid communication and mutual respect in return.
The winning pedigree and combined experience of Team USA’s coaches will help push the U.S. team as it competes for its first Olympic medal since 2010 and first Olympic gold since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team.
This will be the first time Granato has been handed the head coaching position on the world stage, but he gained valuable experience as an assistant with Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Games.
The Downers Grove, Illinois, native also played for Team USA seven times, including the 1988 Olympics, 1991 Canada Cup, three IIHF World Championships (1985, 1986, and 1987) and two IIHF World Championships (1983 and 1984).
Chelios, another Illinois native, will be behind the bench for just the second time. He was an assistant coach for the bronze-winning 2016 U.S. national junior team. The three-time Stanley Cup champion played in four Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 2002, and 2006) before retiring in 2010.
While Rolston will be making just his first appearance as an Olympic coach, he previously served seven seasons as head coach for USA Hockey’s National Development team from 2004-11. The Fenton, Michigan, native led the U.S. to three gold medals (2005, 2009, and 2011) and a silver medal (2007) at the IIHF U-18 World Championship.
Allain will be behind the bench for the third time after serving as an Olympic assistant in 1992 and 2006. He coached the U.S. national junior team three times (2001, 2002, and 2011), served as an assistant for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship team (which earned him a place in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame), and two U.S. national teams (2005 and 2006).
Young, the recently named director of player development for the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be behind the bench for the first time on the international stage. However, he has represented the USA 10 times as a player. Young has played in the three Olympic Games (1988, 1992, and 2002) and is set to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame later this year.
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