Wilson Back for 2016 WJC

Veteran U.S. coach tasked with podium return

04.06.2015
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In his most recent international stint Ron Wilson coached the United States to a silver medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images

Ron Wilson, the man who brought Team USA within a Sidney Crosby overtime goal of the 2010 Olympic gold medal, will once again lead a U.S. national team into major competition at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Jim Johannson, in his seventh year as general manager of the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team, made the Wilson appointment official during a national teleconference on Thursday morning.

“Ron obviously has a wonderful hockey resume as player and coach,” Johannson began. “From a USA Hockey standpoint, he has as much experience as anyone else.”

In fact, Wilson becomes the first ever U.S. junior coach with NHL coaching experience and the second American man to lead an Olympic, World Championship and World Junior Championship team.

“He understands short tournaments,” Johannson continued. “I’m so excited for our players to be around him and the level of exuberance and coaching experience he brings.”

The veteran coach is excited about the 2016 opportunity, saying it’s the culmination of his USA Hockey career.

“This is the only experience I haven’t had in hockey. This completes my resume as far as USA Hockey goes,” said Wilson.

“I’m hoping as we go through this summer and the World Junior Championship, I can pass along my experience of playing in world tournaments and playing in the National Hockey League,” Wilson added.

The Canadian-born Wilson, who holds a dual U.S. passport, boasts a bit of green thumb when it comes to short, international tournaments. The 1996 World Championship was not only Wilson’s first international coaching duty, but it also resulted in Team USA’s first medal (bronze) in 34 years.

That same year, Wilson and the U.S. won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, but no such luck at the 1998 Nagano Olympics where Team USA was handed an early exit under his leadership.

After a 12-year hiatus from the U.S. bench, Wilson led the Americans stunning charge at the 2010 Olympics, earning a silver medal after most experts forecasted a fifth or sixth place finish.

In NHL play Wilson holds a 648-561 career win-loss record over 18 seasons that includes stints in San Jose, Washington, Anaheim and Toronto. The playoffs are where Wilson struggled – never winning the Stanley Cup and owning a lifetime 47-48 postseason record. He has not coached in the NHL since 2012.

Wilson’s hiring marks a departure from Team USA’s recent strategy of utilizing coaches with collegiate experience. Mark Osiecki (Ohio State) and Don Lucia (University of Minnesota) were behind U.S. benches for the past two seasons.

The current TSN analyst will inherit a skilled roster featuring Auston Matthews, the forward expected to be selected first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Matthews could be joined by the likes of 2015 prospects Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin – both products of the Boston area.

When asked about his prospects of coaching such a talented roster, Wilson said, “Every year this team gets better and better. Seeing those names is definitely exciting, but I’d want to coach this team regardless.”

Wilson is tasked with returning the United States back to the medal podium where the typically strong Americans have been conspicuously absent over the past two years. Gold was the last medal attained in a 3-1 victory over Sweden in Ufa, Russia at the 2013 tournament.

“We’re hoping to put together a team of coaches and trainers that will make this a very rewarding experience for the whole team,” said Wilson.

The U.S. is seeking its fourth medal in seven years and will play its preliminary-round games at Helsinki Ice Hall against Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland.

USA Hockey announced that a preliminary 2016 roster should be released later this month and that Lake Placid will once again host this year’s training camp.

RYAN O’LEARY

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