Aim­ing for U.S. hockey glory in 2018

Team’s new coach, for­mer Kings player Granato, says medal is pos­si­ble with­out the help of NHL play­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - By Cur­tis Zupke sports@la­

Tony Granato was a 15year-old Mid­west­ern kid when the “Mir­a­cle on Ice” oc­curred in 1980. He played for the U.S. seven times in in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments and watched his sis­ter, Cammi, win gold in 1998.

“There is no greater thrill in the game of hockey than to be able to cheer for, rep­re­sent, wear the sweater, wear the col­ors,” Granato told re­porters.

Granato will bring that pa­tri­otic pas­sion to his lat­est chal­lenge as coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team for the 2018 Olympics, the first in more than 20 years in which NHL play­ers will not par­tic­i­pate.

Granato, a for­mer Kings player who coaches at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, was an­nounced Fri­day as coach, along with Jim Jo­hann­son as gen­eral man­ager and as­sis­tant coaches Chris Che­lios, Keith Al­lain, Ron Rol­ston and Scott Young.

Jo­hann­son, a two-time Olympic player and long­time man­ager for the na­tional pro­gram, and Granato are charged with form­ing a ros­ter made up pri­mar­ily of play­ers from the NCAA, the Amer­i­can Hockey League and those play­ing in Europe.

The NHL in April an­nounced it will not par­tic­i­pate in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It ends a run of five Win­ter Games with NHL play­ers that be­gan in 1998.

Granato said the U.S. is equipped to medal in the new for­mat and cited the growth of U.S. mi­nor and ju­nior leagues, in ad­di­tion to the U.S. de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. The U.S. has not won gold in men’s hockey since the fa­mous 1980 “Mir­a­cle” up­set of the Soviet Union by mostly col­lege play­ers.

“We ex­pect to com­pete for a medal, and this will be no dif­fer­ent,” Granato said.

Jo­hann­son first chuck­led when asked about the most dif­fi­cult po­si­tion to fill, and said, “To be hon­est, I think we’re com­fort­able in the depth we have in all the ar­eas” while he ac­knowl­edged goal­tend­ing is a fo­cus.

Jo­hann­son also said they are look­ing at re­tired NHL play­ers to fill out the ros­ter. The U.S. will play in the Deutsch­land Cup on Nov. 1012, in Augs­burg, Ger­many, with mostly Euro­pean­based play­ers and that will be a ba­sis to build out the team.

Asked how they will gen­er­ate ex­cite­ment with­out NHL play­ers, Jo­hann­son said, “Turn the TV on. It’s the Olympics.

“I think there’s al­ways been a fresh, and a raw and a unique feel to the Olympic Games. This is go­ing to be great hockey.

“There’s go­ing to be 25 great sto­ries of Amer­i­can guys that came up in won­der­ful grass-roots sys­tems. … I think hockey fans al­ways en­joy in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, and this is go­ing to be an­other great in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.”

Paul Sancya As­so­ci­ated Press

COACH Tony Granato says his U.S. team is equipped to medal in the new Olympic for­mat.

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