PHILADELPHIA – Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs is expected to be selected coach of the U.S. Olympic team for next year’s Winter Games in Vancouver, according to several reports Friday that cited unidentified sources.
USA Hockey said the coach for the men’s team will be announced Monday morning, but declined to comment on whether the choice was Wilson, who served as coach of the U.S. team at the 1998 Nagano Olympics that was eliminated in the quarter-finals.
Wilson’s greatest accomplishment on the international stage has been coaching the U.S. to the gold medal at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
He was in no mood to discuss the appointment after the Leafs lost 8-5 to the Flyers on Friday night.
“See you next year,” Wilson said when asked if he could confirm he’ll coach the U.S. team.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke holds the same position for the U.S. Olympic hockey team, making the selection of Wilson a logical pick. Burke and Wilson also were teammates at Providence College under coach Lou Lamoriello, the longtime GM of the New Jersey Devils.
Wilson neither confirmed nor denied the reports from multiple websites and The Canadian Press before the Leafs game against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
“If I am named, it would be a tremendous honour, but as far as I know nothing’s going to be determined until Monday,” Wilson said.
Recently hired New York Rangers coach John Tortorella was also believed to be under serious consideration to replace Peter Laviolette, the former Carolina Hurricanes coach who led the Americans to an eighth-place finish at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
The 53-year-old Wilson, in his first year as Maple Leafs coach after stints with the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals over 14 other NHL seasons, was born in Windsor, Ont., and is a citizen of both the U.S. and Canada.
He was raised in Rhode Island.
Wilson guided the United States to an upset win over Canada in the three-game final at the 1996 World Cup. He was also behind the U.S. bench at the 2004 World Cup.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to probably coach more games than anybody” for the U.S., Wilson said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a challenge. It’s a short-term event, short-term preparation.
“The tremendous pride you have when you represent your country, whether you’re representing Canada or the United States, when they play the anthems there’s nothing better.”
Wilson also represented the United States as a player on the national team in 1975, 1981, 1983 and 1987.