University of Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato will coach the U.S. men’s national ice hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, according to multiple reports. The formal announcement is scheduled for Friday morning at 10 a.m. ET.
Granato, 53, was hired in March 2016 to coach at Wisconsin, his alma mater. That followed an NHL coaching career that featured a two-season head coaching stint with the Colorado Avalanche from 2002-04, and then again in 2008-09. He complied a 104-78-17-16 record. He was also an assistant coach with the Avs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.
As a player, Granato competed in 773 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks from 1988 to 2001. A native of Downers Grove, Illinois, he played for the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team in 1988, scoring eight points in six games.
Brian Posick, Badgers play-by-play voice, reports that the other assistant will be none other than Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios. ESPN’s John Buccigross adds that Scott Young and Keith Allain are the other assistants.
Since the NHL opted not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, the pool of candidates for head coach was drained significantly. The smart money was on Dan Bylsma, the U.S. coach from the 2014 Games, getting the gig after he was fired by the Buffalo Sabres last spring. But USA Hockey opted to dip into the NCAA ranks.
Granato’s name was mentioned frequently from our sources on the identity of the next Olympic coach, but no one expected that he’d be made available due to his NCAA duties.
Team USA will have a series of tournament appearances ahead of the Olympics in South Korea. The team will formally meet for the first time around Feb. 4, and the men’s hockey tournament begins on Feb. 14. In theory, that puts Granato at risk of missing February home-and-homes against Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, all conference games.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that “associate head coaches Mark Osiecki and Mark Strobel are likely to be in charge at UW in Granato’s absence.”
This is a fascinating choice. Granato has credentials as a former player, which obviously speaks well to his ability to work with any veteran journeymen that might end up on the roster (i.e. Americans playing overseas, or players on AHL contracts). As a college coach, he should also be able to work with the collection of young players that should also populate the roster.
As for Chelios, if the report is accurate … well, that’s even more fascinating.
Lest we forget that Chelios absolutely lit up USA Hockey during its disastrous World Cup of Hockey appearance last year, becoming the Statler and Waldorf of international hockey on ESPN. “From top to bottom, I was more surprised by the way defensively they were cheating and not playing basic 1-on-1 position, blowing the zone, lackadaisical in their own end,” he said.
The U.S. men’s national team could certainly use that kind of passion on the bench.
We’ll learn more about the staff and management on Friday.
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS