UW hockey coach confident in USA's chances

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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) -- University of Wisconsin Men's Hockey Coach Tony Granato will be behind the bench for Team USA when the Men's Olympic Hockey Team begins their quest for gold February 14 in their first preliminary game against Slovenia.

Granato, a former Olympian himself, says hockey fans should be excited about this year's team.

Tony Granato understands that many hockey fans will be disappointed that NHL players will not be taking part in these Olympics, but says these games in South Korea will be wide open, adding this USA team has a chance to leave their own mark in Olympic lure.

"These are not uncommon for international play, world championships, world junior championships, Canada Cups, World Cups, even the last Olympics when our NHL players went and played in Sochi, we get off the plane and get our game plan together and go play. So, I don't think it's anything to worry about, or oh geez, what type of hockey are we going to see. It's going to be great hockey, it's going to be end-to-end hockey, it's going to be exciting skilled players, and these are challenges that we have as coaches to make the right decisions and get our team ready and focused on the little details of the game that will help us win,” said Granato.

Granato and his family have had their share of Olympic experiences so being on the world's most glamorous stage is nothing new.

"I've been lucky to be part of the Olympics as an amateur player in 1988, been lucky enough to watch my sister, Cammi, play in the Olympics on the women's side and win a gold medal, silver medal in her two performances in the Olympics. So, I've done it as a player, as a fan, as an assistant coach in Sochi with NHL players and now I get to go back to the Olympic stage and there's nothing better as an athlete or as an American than to wear the red, white and blue and go to an Olympic stage,” said Granato.

The 1980 Miracle on Ice Hero Mark Johnson has been part of the Olympics as a player and head coach. Johnson coached the United States Women's Hockey Team to a silver medal in 2010 and believes Granato's depth of international experience will serve Team USA well.

"For the way it's structured and the way it's designed this year, he's the perfect candidate to coach the team because he's very knowledgeable in the game of hockey itself. He knows the international game so, that's a strength. The hard part is who are you going to pick and other challenge is you're not going to get a lot of time to practice: get 1 or 2 practices in and it's going to be a challenge from that standpoint. When we played, we spent six months together. Once those players get there, it's going to be an exciting time,” said Johnson.

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