If you’re a high school sophomore facing two years until graduation, 24 months may seem like an eternity. If you’re Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of international hockey, and you’re tasked with preparing for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the time will fly by in the blink of an eye.
Read the transcript of our exclusive interview with USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson
It’s probably a good thing, then, that this won’t be Johannson’s first Olympic rodeo. The Rochester, Minn., native took part in two Olympics as a player (1988 and 1992) and will enter his third Winter Olympiad as the team leader for the U.S. Men’s squad when the Olympic flame is lit on Feb. 12, 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
For Johannson and others involved with Olympic preparations, the Games aren’t a quadrennial event but a daily undertaking. That’s why the 43-year-old has his finger on the pulse of American hockey year round, working constantly on ensuring the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Teams are the best prepared group of athletes USA Hockey can put on the ice.
Still, every four years it must feel like he’s starting from scratch, beginning with the selection of a general manager, then a coaching staff, planning for an orientation camp and finally the selection of a team. That’s not to mention the logistical aspects of moving two teams and all their gear to a foreign country for the better part of a month.
According to Johannson, the Team USA general manager will be named this summer, after the IIHF World Championship in Halifax and Quebec City. The head coach and coaching staff will most likely be named some time in 2009, perhaps as early as the midway point in the NHL season or as late as the conclusion of the World Championship or NHL playoffs.
His best guess regarding an announcement of players would be in the fall of 2009, but the NHL, NHL Players Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation will ultimately determine that date.
What is known is that each team will feature 20 skaters and three goaltenders. Unlike the Torino Games, there will be no reserves on hand to replace an injured player.
To help with the selection process, Johannson will lean on the experience and knowledge of a general management team that was put in place after the Torino Olympics. David Poile (Nashville), Brian Burke (Anaheim), Don Waddell (Atlanta) and Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) have a combined 44 years of experience in the GM role throughout their NHL careers, and have an excellent knowledge of the player pool from which the United States will choose.
When the Vancouver organizing committee and the IIHF announced that the 2010 hockey tournaments would be played on NHL-sized rinks (200 by 85 feet) instead of the Olympic-sized sheets (200 by 100) it raised some eyebrows. It will be the first Olympic hockey tournament played on the smaller NHL-sized ice sheet.
Olympic Hockey Tickets
Tickets to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be sold in phases, with specific dates for the phases still to be determined. The first phase of the tickets sales program for Canadian residents will begin in October 2008.
Tickets range in price from $50 to $140 for preliminary round games, to $350 to $775 for the men’s gold-medal game. (Go to USAHockeyMagazine.com for a complete list.)
According to IOC rules, international spectators must buy tickets through the authorized sales agent for their National Olympic Committee.
For example, U.S. residents will purchase tickets to the 2010 Olympics through Jet Set Sports and CoSport, the exclusive public ticket agents of the U.S. Olympic Committee. For more information, go to JetSetSports.com or CoSport.com.
The Canadians claimed refurbishing the GM Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks, would create undue economic hardship and add to the already daunting preparations to get ready to welcome the world.
Johannson doesn’t think the move will make that much of a difference since the majority of male competitors are already playing on NHL ice every night. And it won’t have any bearing on the type of players selected for the U.S. Team.
“I think in the end we will select the best players to make up the best team,” says Johannson. “You need different types of players to fill all roles, and we certainly feel we have the talent level across the board to field an excellent team in all capacities of the game.”
In 2006, the U.S. squad featured three players with ties to the National Team Development Program. It’s a safe bet that number will rise with the makeup of the 2010 squad.
“I think it is safe to say Vancouver will probably feature even more NTDP alumni on an Olympic team. It is in part what the design and goal of the program was and is to this day,” says Johannson.
It’s too early, though, to place any bets on who will or won’t make the team. While there already is speculation surrounding a changing of the guard with younger players replacing the core group that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and a silver medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, Johannson would never bet against the veteran players who continue to put up respectable numbers with their respective NHL clubs.
“Obviously some of the young rising stars will be in Vancouver, but I would never write off any of our veteran players who have served their country so well for so many years,” he says.
And that includes Chris Chelios, who will be 48 years old the next time the Olympics roll around.
“He is just an amazing guy,” Johannson says. “He has set the standard for what being a player is all about. So to answer your question, I would never bet against Chris Chelios.”
It would be Chelios’ fifth Olympics, placing him behind only Raimo Helminen who competed in six Olympics for Finland.
Home To All The Hockey Action
General Motors Place
Location: Downtown Vancouver
Status: Current home to the Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation came to an agreement on June 7, 2006 that the 2010 Olympic men’s and women’s hockey tournaments will be played on NHL-sized ice surfaces rather than converting to the larger international size.
UBC Winter Sports Centre
Location: University of British Columbia