2018 Olympics

Kendall Coyne Schofield to serve as NBC Sports analyst on Wednesday Night Hockey

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STAMFORD, Conn. – January 29, 2019 – 2018 Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield will join NBC Sports’ coverage for this week’s Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN (watch live stream here).

Coyne, who currently plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition event this past weekend when she participated in the fastest skater event.

Coyne will be featured on NBC Sports’ commentary team throughout the night, joining NHL Live pre-game coverage, providing reaction and analysis during intermissions, and serving as an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst, and booth analyst.

“Kendall’s a gold-medal winning player who had a spectacular moment at the All-Star Game that had people talking about hockey,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “We saw the enormous reaction the players and fans had when she blazed that amazing speed, and want to celebrate her accomplishment. We think viewers will be very interested to hear her lean in and talk about hockey during a regular-season game.”

Coyne will join the broadcast team of John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) for the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Wednesday night.

Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET on NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh alongside analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

MORE: Coyne Schofield’s NHL All-Star Skills participation makes big statement

U.S. women’s coach keeping blinders on as he preps for Olympic debut

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Robb Stauber can’t miss seeing the Olympic rings painted at center ice – even on the practice rink. The former goalie is doing his best to ignore all the reminders that he is making his head coaching debut on the world’s biggest stage for women’s hockey.

Being at the Pyeongchang Games is reminder enough of the monumental task Stauber accepted in trying to end the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought.

So Stauber is making a conscious effort to stick to the approach he has preached to his players of simply staying in the moment.

”This is a hockey tournament,” Stauber said after practice Thursday. ”I’ve done hockey personally my entire life. I’m not sure I know anything better, so I know and I know what I see and I know what I believe in and I believe in our players, so I’m sticking to that focus. I personally don’t want to get caught up in the Olympics. I enjoy it. I remember watching it as a kid. I get all that stuff.”

This isn’t Stauber’s first Olympics. He was an assistant in 2014 when the Americans blew a 2-0 lead and lost in overtime to their biggest rival, Canada. But Stauber, who played 62 NHL games in stints with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres, accepted the job last May knowing exactly what USA Hockey expected from him.

”The drought’s going to end,” Stauber said. ”It might as well end now. I mean it’s going to end, and I think we have the players to do it, and I like our approach.”

Katey Stone coached the Americans in Sochi, and Ken Klee coached the United States to consecutive world championships before being ousted in March 2017.

Stauber had only been head coach of the Minnesota Whitecaps for the 2015-16 season. He was goalie coach at the University of Minnesota, helping the men win back-to-back national titles in 2002 and 2003. He was goalie coach with the Minnesota-Duluth women for four seasons capped by the 2008 national championship.

Since 2010, the native of Duluth, Minnesota, has been involved with the U.S. women’s national team as one of the first hires by Reagan Carey after she took over as director of women’s hockey by USA Hockey in August 2010. The general manager of the Olympic team had watched games with Stauber, getting the chance to learn how he watches games and his vision for his teams.

Carey turned to Stauber last May after he guided the Americans to their fourth straight world championship and eighth in the last 10 years. She said his attention to detail formed by his experience as a goaltender will help Stauber now.

”Being head coach is a different level of pressure, but his training whether as an athlete, I think as a coach and just his approach to things really attention to detail and keeping things calm and consistent (I) have zero concerns about his ability to manage the Olympic games any different than he has any of the world championships or camps or events before this,” Carey said.

The Americans have embraced Stauber’s approach. It’s why they are talking only about Sunday’s game against Finland and not a preliminary round rematch with Canada on Tuesday. The end goal is playing for a gold medal on Feb. 22.

”We’re not searching for the inner strength anymore,” captain Meghan Duggan said. ”We spent the last four years preparing ourselves for these games, and the number one thing for our team is we focus on ourselves. That’s it. Our first game is against Finland on the 11th and that’s who we’ve been preparing for since we got here, that’s where our focus is right now.”

Stauber has changed up how the Americans play. He wants them skating fast, playing off each other to score. The Americans struggled to score in December as they wrapped up an exhibition tour against Canada scoring only three goals while losing four games.

Over the past month, Stauber has seen improvement.

”The past month we see some things that we love and sometimes not only do we like it, we’re almost surprised by some of that imagination and creativity, how they’re feeding off each other,” Stauber said. ”It’s like, ‘Wait.’ When we’re a little surprised, I wonder what others might think.”

It’s almost time for the Americans, and Stauber, to prove what they can do.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Big brother Granato prepared for role as US Olympic coach

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Growing up as the oldest of six children, Tony Granato always seemed to be in charge.

If that meant telling brothers Don and Robby to help their younger siblings put on their shoes or find their jackets, that’s what he did.

A decade or so later, those same qualities stood out on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team – even though defenseman Eric Weinrich and 15 other players were older than Granato.

”I really looked up to Tony as a real leader and someone you could aspire to,” Weinrich said. ”He was really a mature guy for the group that we had. I always kind of thought of him as an older player than he really was. He always seemed like one of those guys that would be a good captain.”

Decades later, the 53-year-old big brother finds himself in that role again on the biggest stage in international hockey.

Granato will coach an unheralded men’s hockey team without NHL players at the Olympics in South Korea next month. Hand-picked by general manager, friend and 1988 Olympic teammate Jim Johannson, who died unexpectedly on the eve of the games, Granato has spent more than 30 years building to this moment.

”I’ve been there as a fan, I’ve been there as a player, I’ve been there as an assistant coach,” Granato said . ”There’s no greater sporting event. There’s no greater place for an athlete to be.”

Brother Don said Tony’s ”spirit is what the Olympic spirit is,” something that began as a teenager in the wake of the 1980 ”Miracle On Ice” team winning the gold medal in Lake Placid, New York. The four hockey-playing Granato children got white and blue jerseys of 1980 heroes Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig and wore them during spirited games in their suburban Chicago basement that always pitted Tony and Cammi against Don and Robby.

The 1980 victory helped the Granato kids realize they could aspire to make the NHL. After being drafted in the sixth round in 1982 by the New York Rangers, Tony played at the University of Wisconsin and representing the U.S. at two world junior tournaments, three world championships and the 1988 Calgary Games.

With full knowledge that he and his teammates were supposed to replicate the 1980 success, Granato was tied for second with eight points and still looks back on that experience with pride even though the U.S. went 2-3 and didn’t reach the medal round.

”I thought we had a tremendous team. We just didn’t get the results,” Granato said. ”We had two phenomenal games: one against Russia and one against the Czechs that we lost heartbreaking games that we could’ve easily won and put ourselves in medal contention. It didn’t go our way, but it was a tremendous honor to be part of that team. I’ve got nothing but great memories about it.”

Eleven years into his NHL career, Granato’s big-brother mentality was on full display in the form of telephone support for sister Cammi as she prepared for Nagano in 1998, the first Olympics with women’s hockey.

”It would be a five-minute conversation, but he was just checking in to make sure I was good, how are the games, how am I feeling – kind of a pep talk,” said Cammi Granato, who in 2010 became one of the first two women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. ”Of course I listened to everything he had to tell me.”

Granato put up 535 points in 852 games with the Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks during a proud pro career, but he wasn’t selected to play for the U.S. in 1998, the first Olympics featuring NHL players. He traveled to Japan anyway to watch Cammi. When he had to return to North America to resume the season, he was the first person she called to celebrate with after winning the gold medal.

Four years later, when Canada beat the U.S. in the women’s final in Salt Lake City, Cammi saw Tony and his children immediately when she got off the bus following the loss.

”His kids, my nieces and nephews, when I got off the bus were right there and I was pretty devastated,” Cammi said. ”Tony was the next one in line to just grab me and I just remember breaking down with him. He’s always been there for me.”

Since then, Granato has coached with the Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and is in his second season at Wisconsin, his alma mater. Influenced along the way by Stanley Cup winning-coaches Joel Quenneville, Dan Bylsma and Mike Babcock, he returned to the Olympics as an assistant on Bylsma’s U.S. staff in Sochi in 2014.

Over one summer camp and two weeks in Russia, Granato made a significant impact on players. James van Riemsdyk called him ”cerebral” and T.J. Oshie instantly saw how much he cared about the players and USA Hockey.

”He was a really good guy and cared about players and cared about winning,” added Justin Faulk. ”That goes a long way.”

Even though being the bad guy sometimes comes with the territory of being coach, Granato is widely considered by former players to be an excellent communicator. Don got to see that up close as one of his assistants last year at Wisconsin.

”He is exceptional at trying to put himself in the player’s shoes,” Don said. ”He really will communicate differently to different people.”

Granato will be tested on that in South Korea with a 25-man roster that includes 17 players from European professional leagues, four from the college ranks, three from the American Hockey League and semi-retired 38-year-old captain Brian Gionta, many of whom already know him from the Deutschland Cup in November. Gionta described Granato’s coaching style as motivational and full of passion for the game.

Enthusiasm has never been lacking for Granato, who insists he’s not trying to match Cammi’s gold medal for family bragging rights.

”Our expectations of ourselves are to compete for a medal,” Granato said. ”There’s no NHL players going to be able to play in it. But I think it’s even more exciting because the opportunity that these athletes are going to get will be the biggest stage that they’ve ever been on in their lives.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Canadian women know Olympic gold standard expected in hockey

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WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — Wearing the big maple leaf on the jersey and playing hockey for Canada comes with the burden of history and tradition – and only one outcome is acceptable at the Winter Games.

Bring home gold.

Expectations are sky high in Canada where boys and girls grab sticks and start whacking at pucks almost as soon as they start walking. The women have done their part, winning the last four Olympics to maintain their spot atop the game worldwide.

Yes, the women tasked with winning a fifth straight gold at the Pyeongchang Games know exactly what is expected from them come February.

”There’s definitely a lot of pressure,” said forward Natalie Spooner, who helped Canada win gold at the 2014 Sochi Games. ”I think you’ve got to embrace it and run with it and thrive from it.”

The United States won the inaugural gold in women’s hockey in 1998. The Canadians have won the rest. An estimated 13 million people in Canada watched in 2014 as the Americans had a puck clank off the post just missing an empty-netter to clinch gold. Marie-Philip Poulin then tied it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation before winning gold with her second goal in overtime .

Poulin said she couldn’t write a story that ended any better than the game itself. Even better? Knowing that Canada still ruled women’s hockey.

”Every time I talk to people, they still remember where they were,” Poulin said.

Forward Jennifer Wakefield was 8 when women’s hockey debuted in Nagano in 1998. When she saw Canada take gold over the United States in 2010 in Vancouver, Wakefield was addicted.

”It brings the country together, and it’s just an incredible feeling to even be a part of the history that other people have put before us wearing the Canadian jersey,” Wakefield said.

Laura Schuler knows what’s expected of Canadians perhaps better than anyone else. She is the first woman to not only play for Canada but also coach the women in the Olympics – she’ll be behind the bench in Pyeongchang. Schuler, taking a break from her job coaching women’s hockey at Dartmouth, helped Canada win three world championships in 1990, 1992 and 1997 before taking silver in her lone Olympic appearance in 1998.

”Oh, I think no matter what, whenever you put the jersey on and represent your country, it doesn’t matter if it’s exhibition or international play or the Olympics, you’re always making sure that you’re giving 100 percent,” Schuler said.

Hockey Canada certainly has done its part to groom players for the world’s biggest stage. Women get a chance to first start putting on the national sweater with that maple leaf as part of the under-18 team, then there’s the national development team that plays a three-game series with the United States each summer along with other events.

The national team also uses a centralized program of training and exhibition games to prepare for the Olympics. Canada announced its 23-woman roster for the 2018 Winter Games on Dec. 22.

Forward Rebecca Johnston, 28, said playing in the Olympics is a goal she’s had since she was a little girl. And yes, playing in the Olympics means bringing home gold. She is going for her third and said the feeling of representing Canada never gets old.

”It’s what we train for four years leading up to that Olympics is to get the best possible spot we can, the best possible team we can in hopefully that gold medal game to represent our country and to be able to win a gold medal for Canada,” Johnston said. ”So that is our ultimate goal. We have the mindset of not accepting anything less than that.”

If Canada needed any extra motivation, they need only look at United States having won the last four world championships and eight of the last 10.

”You don’t want to go out there not having that pressure behind you,” Wakefield said. ”I think we can become complacent with coming in second. So it’s nice to feel the desire to need a win.”

USA Hockey: Five goalies in mix to fill two Olympic roster spots

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — USA Hockey’s Jim Johansson is going to keep everyone guessing for at least another week before filling the two remaining goalie spots on the Olympic men’s national team roster.

The U.S. team’s general manager on Tuesday revealed there are five goalies being considered, but wouldn’t name any of them specifically, a day after the Americans announced 23 of 25 roster spots . The players selected included one goalie, Ryan Zapolski, who is playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Johansson said all five goalie candidates have been informed they are being considered, and he expects to make the final two selections by the end of next week.

He said team officials didn’t want to rush into making the selections so to give the goalies extra time to distinguish themselves. Johansson then offered a hint in saying he also didn’t want to disrupt the U.S. team’s bid to defend its world junior hockey championship title.

”Basically, we told the guys, ‘Just go play hockey,”’ said Johansson, who is attending the 10-nation tournament, which runs through Friday and being held in Buffalo.

The junior team features two possible candidates in Boston College’s Joseph Woll and Boston University’s Jake Oettinger. Woll is 2-1 and made his fourth start of the tournament in the United States’ quarterfinal game against Russia on Thursday night. Oettinger stopped 19 shots through overtime and all four he faced during a shootout in a 4-3 win over Canada in a preliminary round game Friday.

Three other possible candidates are David Leggio and Brandon Maxwell, who are currently playing professionally in Europe. Then there’s 18-year-old Joey Lamoreaux, who is playing in the U.S. Hockey League.

The pool of players is limited because Pyeongchang Olympics will be the first Winter Games since 1994 without NHL players.

The rest of the team heading to South Korea in February will be mostly made up of veteran journeyman currently competing in Europe. The U.S. will be captained by 38-year-old Brian Gionta, who elected to take a year off from the NHL to represent his country.

The team also features four college skaters, three of whom returned to school rather than sign an NHL contract, which would have made them ineligible for Olympic competition.

”The guys that stayed, it worked out for them, but it worked out because they played their way onto the team,” Johansson said, referring to Denver’s Troy Terry, Harvard’s Ryan Donato and Boston University’s Jordan Greenway.