Caps coach to lead U.S. Olympians Expectations await Wilson with NHL team

November 04, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

As the next coach of the U.S. Olympic hockey team, Ron Wilson isn't expecting the same kind of magic to transpire in Nagano, Japan, next February as happened nearly 18 years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y.

But as the coach of last year's gold-medal-winning team in the World Championships of Hockey, Wilson is hoping for the same kind of success to repeat itself at the 1998 Olympic Games.

"I don't think with the quality of teams out there -- and there are five or six teams that can win the gold medal -- I don't think that not winning would be viewed as abject failure," Wilson said shortly after being named yesterday as the U.S. Olympic men's coach.

"But it [winning the gold medal at the world championships] has certainly changed our expectations. If we don't win the gold medal, we will certainly be very disappointed. It's not a negative pressure. It's a pressure that every single player treasures."

Since the Americans beat Canada two summers ago, the expectations have grown for Nagano. So did the expectation that Wilson, then the coach of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and now of the Washington Capitals, would be named to coach the first group of NHL players to represent the United States in the Olympic Games.

Wilson, 42, was named by Lou Lamoriello, general manager of the Olympic team and president of the New Jersey Devils. Lamoriello also named 16 of the team's 23 players, including 15 who played for Wilson on the world championship team. John Cunniff and Paul Holmgren were named assistant coaches.

"We were pleased to have such a group of quality coaches, led by Ron Wilson, to prepare and lead our American players in Japan," said Lamoriello.

In part because the rink used in Nagano will, like most international rinks, be bigger than the ones used in the NHL, Lamoriello will have eight defensemen, three of whom will be able to be used as forwards, to go along with 12 forwards or centers as well as three goaltenders.

No current members of the Capitals were named, though Adam Oates has expressed an interest in playing for the U.S. team if he were not a part of the Canadian team. While not discounting Oates' chances entirely, Lamoriello said, "I want players who want to play for the U.S. first."

The remainder of the team will be named by Dec. 1. Wilson is aware of the problems of taking essentially an all-star team into Olympic competition, given the fact it will likely have only three days of practice before its first game. He also knows what the experience of beating Canada two years ago will do for his players.

"First and foremost, we proved to ourselves that we were capable of competing with every team in the world for the top honor," Wilson said.

Roster

Forwards: Tony Amonte, Chicago; Adam Deadmarsh, Colorado; Brett Hull, St. Louis; John LeClair, Philadelphia, Mike Modano, Dallas; Joel Otto, Philadelphia; Jeremy Roenick, Phoenix; Keith Tkachuk, Phoenix.

Defensemen: Chris Chelios, Gary Suter, Chicago; Derian Hatcher, Dallas; Kevin Hatcher, Pittsburgh; Brian Leetch, N.Y. Rangers; Mathieu Schneider, Toronto.

Goalkeepers: Mike Richter, N.Y. Rangers; John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida.

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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