(Photo: USA Hockey)
On Wednesday, June 17, USA Hockey announced the appointment of Chris Chelios, Danton Cole and Kevin Reiter as the assistant coaches who will join previously named head coach Ron Wilson in the coaching of the 2016 Team USA National Junior Team. In addition to these four men, a number of support staff and guest camp coaches were named.
Head Coach, Wilson, led Team USA to the silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. He coached 1,401 NHL games with 648 wins spanning 18 years as a head coach. He stood behind the bench in Anaheim (1993-97), Washington (1997-2002), San Jose (2002-08), and Toronto (2008-12). He ranks eighth all-time in the NHL in wins. This is his first time leading Team USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
“We’re extremely pleased to have Ron guiding our National Junior Team,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director for hockey operations at USA Hockey and who will also serve as general manager of the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team. “His resume speaks for itself, both as a player and a coach, and we know he’ll do an outstanding job.”
“It is always an honor to serve as head coach for the United States,” said Wilson. “The World Junior Championship has evolved into one of the great events on the hockey calendar and with so many highly-skilled players in USA Hockey’s player pool, expectations have never been higher.”
And expectations for the junior team are high. In the past six years Team USA has earned gold in 2010 and 2013 and a bronze in 2011. Unfortunately in the last two years they finished in fifth place. It is clear that they are hoping for a higher placement and perhaps a return to the medals during the 2016 Championship, which will take place December 26, 2015 – January 5, 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. During the preliminary round, Team USA will face Canada, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland as they play in Helsinki Ice Hall.
Chelios, who serves as an advisor to hockey operations for the Detroit Red Wings, though getting his first assistant coaching position with the U.S. National Junior Team, has spent the last five years working closely with the coaching staffs of the Red Wings and their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. His involvement has been to help develop and mentor the young players within the Red Wings organization.
Chelios’ playing career earned him elections to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. He retired after 26 seasons in the NHL with the distinction of being the all-time leader in games played by a defenseman (1,651). Drafted in 1981 in the second round (40th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens, he has been on three Stanley Cup-winning teams (Montreal: 1986; Detroit: 2002, 2008) and won the Norris Trophy three times (1989, 1993, and 1996). He ranks tenth all-time among defensement with his 948 career points (185 goals and 763 assists).
He’s represented the United States as a player ten different times: four Olympic Winter Games (1984, 1998, 2002, 2006), three Canada Cups (1984, 1987, 1991), two World Cup of Hockey events (1996, 2004) and once at the World Junior Championships (1982). Adding to his Stanley Cups and Norris trophies, he has also won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, with a team he captained. And while attending the University of Wisconsin, he helped his team win an NCAA national title in 1983 and was named to the NCAA all-tournament team.
Cole will begin his sixth year as a head coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development program. During his past five years he has led the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team to gold medals at the IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship (2012, 2014). He has led the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 and Under-17 teams to five other first place finishes in international competition.
Cole served as an assistant coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2013 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden when they won the bronze medal. Cole served as a head coach at both the college and professional levels before joining USA Hockey’s NTDP. His coaching led the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers to a College Hockey America championship in 2010 before accepting the position as head coach of the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins (2002-05). During his tenure with the Griffins his record of 116 wins places him second all-time in the team’s history.
Selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1985 Draft in the sixth round (123rd overall), Cole’s name can be found on the Stanley Cup with the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils. He would spend seven years with the National Hockey League. Like Chelios, he has represented the United States, though Cole did it as a member of three U.S. Men’s National Teams (1990, 1991, 1994) and was on the NCAA national title-winning Michigan State University in 1986. He was also named to three Central Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic Teams.
Reiter, like Cole, has been involved in the USA Hockey NTDP, having completed his second season as the goaltending coach. During his time with the NTDP he has been part of a coaching staff of two gold medal-willing U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Teams (2014, 2015). Before joining USA Hockey’s NTDP, he served as a goaltending consultant for the Italian Men’s National Team in 2012. Reiter played at the University of Alaska-Anchorage from 2000 to 2004 and then went on to play professionally for seven years. While playing with the Fort Wayne Komets in 2008, his team won the International Hockey League’s Turner Cup championship and he was named IHL Goalie of the Year.
Additional support staff was also announced including equipment managers Scott Aldrich and Dave Gilbert; trainer Stan Wong; team physician Dr. Phil Johnson’ and communications contact Jon Gomez.
Those players who are invited to the 2015 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp to take place in Lake Placid, New York the beginning of August will also have an opportunity to work with guest coaches Kelly Miller and Doug Weight. Miller serves as an assistant coach with Michigan State University, while Weight is an assistant coach with the New York Islanders. Both men have known the experience of pulling on a jersey to represent the United States, in fact for a combined 16 times: one Canada Cup, four World Junior Championships, six World Championships, two World Cup of Hockey events and three Olympic Winter Games.
The skill, talent, and experience in this year’s coaching staff speaks to the intent that USA Hockey has in helping its team get back to medal contention. Step one will will take place during the evaluation camp in August.