One day after three Pittsburgh Penguins were named to USA Hockey’s Olympic orientation camp in late August, Dan Bylsma learned he will have at least one guaranteed familiar face on the bench next February at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato was appointed as part of Team USA’s support staff Tuesday morning. Head coach Bylsma will be joined by Granato, who has been with him in Pittsburgh for the past four seasons, as well as Peter Laviolette and Todd Richards. Both Laviolette (Philadelphia) and Richards (Columbus) are NHL head coaches, with Laviolette previously serving as the United States head coach in the 2006 Olympics and two previous World Championships.
Like Bylsma, Granato has no previous international coaching experience, although Granato played for Team USA in the 1988 Winter Olympics. He also donned the Red, White & Blue in three men’s World Championships, two World Junior Championships and a Canada Cup.
Additionally, Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier will fulfill a similar role for Team USA as it prepares to build upon its silver-medal finish in 2010. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby memorably defeated the Americans in that year’s final, delivering the gold to Canada with an overtime goal. Not only will Bylsma’s team have to deal with Crosby and Co. next winter, Evgeni Malkin’s Russian squad will be eager to show well on home ice after an embarrassing defeat to Canada in Vancouver.
There are many challenges ahead for Team USA, but at least Bylsma has a built-in confidant in Granato to lean on in tight situations, to say nothing of the rest of the support staff.