Woodridge, IL – Forget the old proverb, “familiarity breeds contempt.” When it applies to the U.S Olympic hockey team, “familiarity can breed success.” As the U.S. Olympic hockey orientation camp closes, all eyes are on the man with the Herb Brooks-type pressure on his coaching shoulders, head coach Ron Wilson.
It will be the Maple Leafs’ bench boss’s job to guide the 2010 version of the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Vancouver. Familiarity? Ron’s been there. Done that. He has extensive international coaching experience. In 1996 he led Team USA to a gold medal at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey. As Ron put it, “the 1996 team was the best collection of United States hockey players. At least ten of those players will make it to the NHL Hall of Fame”.
Most importantly, he served as head coach for Team USA at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. According to Ron Wilson, getting the invite to coach the 2010 Olympic team was a bit of a surprise. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get another chance after 1998. The pressure is there, but coaching the U.S. Olympic hockey team is also alot of fun.”
Many would say that Ron’s appointment was the logical choice. He’s coached fifteen of the thirty-plus players invited to camp. One of this best friends is U.S. Olympic team GM, Brian Burke. They both went to Providence. And of course, Brian Burke is his boss in Toronto.
Ron Wilson buys into Brian Burke’s grand plan for stressing team leadership and communication. Player communication will be a challenge since the NHL regular season may get in the way. In that regard, Ron is hoping NHL general managers will allow him to keep in touch with his Olympic players during the NHL regular season.
As Ron put it, “keeping in touch will be important. We may not have much time to practice prior to our first game against Switzerland. The Swiss will get at least a month to practice.”
Ron Wilson is very familiar with the challenges that lie ahead. But, familiarity and being prepared will only be half of the battle.