PARK CITY, Utah -- The U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team for the Sochi Winter Games will be announced on Jan. 1, after the Winter Classic game, officials of USA Hockey said Monday at the U.S. Olympic media summit.
“Our goal the next few months is to make 25 correct decisions,” said David Poile, general manager of Team USA and of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
Poile also said that half or more of the team will be composed of players from the 2010 Vancouver team, which lost to Canada in the gold medal game. He said players’ performances during the start of the NHL decision will be crucial in making final decisions.
Poile’s management team has some strong credentials. His associate general manager will be Ray Shero, who won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The director of player personnel will be Brian Burke, who won the Cup with the Ducks and is now an executive with the Calgary Flames.
Also consulting are Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, who won the Cup in 2012, and two-time Stanley Cup winner Stan Bowman, the general manager of the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Also on the staff are Dale Tallon, general manager of the Florida Panthers, and Don Waddell, a former NHL general manager who is now scouting for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Poile said the management team will speak regularly by phone once the season starts and will convene at an NHL general managers’ meeting in Toronto in November.
The difficulties of winning gold on foreign soil were discussed by team executives and players during an orientation camp held in late August in Arlington, Va. The only two gold medals won by the U.S. men were in 1960, at Squaw Valley, and in 1980, at Lake Placid. The Sochi Games will be played on an international-size rink, which is 15 feet wider than NHL rinks.
“We’ve had good success in North America, winning silvers both in Salt Lake City and Vancouver but nothing over in Europe, and that’s very problematic,” Poile said. “We know that the ice surface is bigger over there.
"We know that the time difference is a lot. We know there’s the food also but it’s the same for everybody else.
“To me there’s no excuse. Our game should translate fine over in Europe. There needs to be some adjustments in terms of the thinking, whether it be a goaltender as to his positions, his angles, or what have you, defenseman and exactly how he goes back to retrieve the puck. This is a coaching responsibility to tell the players and make the players aware of the position and a few of those other things.
“Having said that, it would be very disappointing if we don’t make the correct adjustments. I’m certainly not using the size of the ice surface for an excuse for us not doing well. We need to overcome that because it’s part of our history.”
The NHL season will begin on Tuesday but David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, who represented Team USA at the media event on Monday and was a member of the 2010 team, said the Olympics "are always on your mind.”
That doesn’t mean he will try to spare any of his prospective U.S. teammates, such as Kings forward Dustin Brown, in upcoming NHL games if he has a chance to hit them.
“I try to hit him harder so he has to sit in front of me on the bus,” Backes said of Brown. “There’s a mutual respect where on a Friday I might be playing Dustin Brown and on Saturday, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and it will get a little nasty and bloody but afterwards we can shake hands.”
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