PLYMOUTH, USA – Tony Granato will be behind the bench for the U.S. men’s ice hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics next February it was announced by USA Hockey on Friday. Granato will be joined on the bench by assistant coaches Chris Chelios, Scott Young, Keith Allain and Ron Rolston.
Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, will serve as the general manager of the Olympic team, while Ben Smith is the team’s director of player personnel.
“The pride that we have of being associated with the American program and Team USA is what makes it special,” Granato said. “I’m obviously extremely honoured to be here, I’m looking forward to the challenge of putting together a team that can compete for a medal.”
The 2018 Olympics marks the first time since 1994 that NHL players will not participate in the games.
The U.S. roster will be comprised of Europe-based players, eligible players in the American Hockey League and players currently playing NCAA hockey.
“From the hockey side of it, we’re going to play November 10-12 at the Deutschland Cup tournament in Augsburg, Germany. We’ll probably bring upwards of 27-30 players to that tournament,” said Johannson, who played for the Americans at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.
“We’ll use that as kind of a base to build out where we are roster-wise and from that plug-in spots (in terms) of where guys are going to be utilized, start to factor in the NCAA players that are going to be available to us and the AHL players.”
Granato, who currently coaches the men’s hockey team at the University of Wisconsin, was an assistant under Dan Bylsma at the 2014 Olympics. The former NHLer coached the Colorado Avalanche for parts of three seasons and has served as an assistant with Colorado, Pittsburgh and Detroit in the past.
“He’s a good coach, he led us all the way to the Big 10 championship, unfortunately we couldn’t pull through to win the tournament,” said J.D. Greenway, who plays for Granato at Wisconsin. “From where the team was two years ago to now, it’s night and day.
“On the ice, he taught me tons of stuff and improved my game, but it’s not just on the ice, it’s off the ice, being a better person, better student – he goes above and beyond and helps in all areas.”
Chelios has been an assistant coach with the Red Wings since 2015 and represented the U.S. four times at the Olympics (1984, 1998, 2002, 2006). The 55-year-old captained the U.S. to a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
“The problem with Chris is, and we joked about it last night at dinner, right now he’s probably skating somewhere thinking we’re asking him to play as well,” said Granato.
Young joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as their director of player development of last month. The 49-year-old was a teammate of Granato’s on the 1988 Olympic team.
Allain is entering his 12th season as the coach at Yale University. The 58-year-old was an assistant coach for the U.S. at the 1992 and 2006 Olympics.
Rolston was the coach of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program from 2004-11, and coached the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons.
Any player who the Americans are considering for the 2018 Olympic team will have to be registered by 1st September.
“With the Olympics, it’s a little bit different because you register your players with the Olympic committee so there is a September date where players have to be registered and the players also need to be in the anti-doping program,” Johannson explained. “I’ve been in constant communication with both those organizations on the timing of it.”
Johannson expects goaltenders Ryan Zapolski, who plays for Jokerit Helsinki in the Kontinental Hockey League, and David Leggio, who plays for EHC Red Bull Munich in Germany to be part of the U.S. contingent at the Deutschland Cup.
"There's players playing internationally, there's world-class Americans playing all over the world," Granato said. "And we're looking forward to finding the best 25 that will represent our country with pride, passion and energy. I think we can be a real competitive team with how we skate. There's plenty of skilled payers that will allow us to compete with the world's best."