By Gary R. Blockus | Aug. 04, 2017, 11:59 a.m. (ET)
Tony Granato handles bench duties for the USA Blue squad as they play against Team Finland at the USA Hockey junior evaluation camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on Aug. 6, 2012 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

 

U.S. Olympian, longtime NHL star and current University of Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato was named head coach of the 2018 U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team. The announcement was made during a press conference at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan on Friday.

“We’ve been blessed to wear the American sweater,” Granato said. “We’ve done it as players, as coaches, as volunteers, as fans. I was lucky enough to watch my sister (Cammi) in a couple of Olympics. There is no greater thrill in the game of hockey than to be able to cheer for, represent and wear the colors… I’m looking forward to the challenge of putting together a team that will compete for a medal.”

Jim Johannson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, has been named general manager of the team, and Ben Smith will serve as director of player personnel.

Chris Chelios, Scott Young, Keith Allain and Ron Rolston have been named as Granato’s assistants.

“When the names Chelios, Young and Ronnie came up, and Keith came up, I said if we’re able to pull this off and get those guys, we’ve got as good a staff as you can put together,” said Granato, a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team along with Johannson and Young. 

Chelios, a four-time Olympian (1984, 1998, 2002, 2006) will most likely work with defensemen and on the penalty kill, according to Granato, and three-time Olympian Young (1988, 1992, 2002) will work with the forwards and the power play unit.

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Allain and Rolston will specialize in video, but all will be actively coaching and helping with player selection for the first U.S. team that will not include active NHL players since 1984. The National Hockey League has decided not to shut down for a customary Olympic break, making its players ineligible.

Johannson said that USA Hockey will honor the NHL’s wishes, and that the player pool will consist of U.S. players playing in European leagues, on American Hockey League contracts, or in college.

“I think it’s an outstanding opportunity for a lot of our American players,” Granato said. “As Jim alluded to earlier, we’ve got a lot of skill, a lot of depth. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

“We’re thrilled to have such an experienced group leading our men’s Olympic team,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “These individuals have been a part of some significant moments in USA Hockey history, from winning championships as players to building gold medal-winning teams as staff members.”

“The experience, passion and success our management and coaching staff have between them ensure that we’ll have a team well prepared to win gold in PyeongChang,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey.

Johannson is serving as team general manager for the first time after two appearances as a player (1988, 1992), as team leader (2002) and three times in management (2006, 2010, 2014).

Smith was head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s team in 1998, as well as coach in 2002 and 2006, and assistant for the men’s team in 1988.

Granato played 13 years in the NHL and spent 13 more coaching in the NHL, in addition to serving as an assistant for the 2014 U.S. Olympic men’s team.

Allain, the head coach at Yale University and a member of the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame, previously served as an assistant men’s Olympic coach in 1992 and 2006.

Chelios, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, is an Olympic assistant coach for the first time. His 1,651 games played in 26 seasons are the most for any NHL defenseman.

Rolston, also making his Olympic coaching debut, is a former head coach of the NHL Buffalo Sabres.

Young, a three-time Olympian and current director for player development for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also making his Olympic coaching debut.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.