Waddell will select U.S. coaching staff

Updated: July 26, 2005, 4:13 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | Special to ESPN.com

USA Hockey announced Tuesday afternoon that Thrashers general manager Don Waddell will lead the management team for the U.S. men's hockey team at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Joining Waddell as an assistant general manager is Paul Holmgren, who occupies the same role with the Philadelphia Flyers. Jim Johannson, a two-time Olympic player, will be the team's director of hockey operations.

Keith Tkachuk
Veteran players like Keith Tkachuk might not make the Olympic roster.

"It's a privilege to continue my association with USA Hockey and represent my country," Waddell said. "The Olympics are the pinnacle of international competition and hold a special place in the history of hockey in the United States."

The two, along with USA Hockey executives, will be responsible for naming a coaching staff, and then inviting players to a pre-Olympic training camp tentatively scheduled for Sept. 5-8 in Colorado Springs, Colo. A decision on the coaching staff isn't expected for at least another week.

Opening games for the Olympic tournament are scheduled for Feb. 15, with the gold-medal game set for Feb. 26.

Waddell's selection will come as little surprise given that he has been groomed for this position over the past couple of seasons.

Most recently, Waddell was GM of the U.S. entry in the 2005 World Championships and was assistant GM for last summer's World Cup of Hockey and the 2004 World Championships, where the U.S. earned a surprise bronze medal.

"He's been a leader in the development of hockey in the United States and we know he'll do everything he can to build a team that we will all be proud of," USA Hockey president Ron DeGregorio said.

The selection of the 2006 coaching staff and team will represent the culmination of a dramatic makeover of U.S. hockey at the international level that began with this year's World Championships.

Veteran players like Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Brian Leetch, Tony Amonte, Bill Guerin and Brett Hull weren't part of the World Championship roster, in part because many had been idled by the NHL lockout, in part because it's believed a new generation of players like Paul Martin, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Suter and Jordan Leopold have earned a chance to represent the U.S. at the highest levels of international play.

The challenge for Waddell, 46, will be finding the right mix of skilled veteran players and skilled youth. The orientation camp and the first few weeks of the 2005-06 season will be crucial to those decisions.

Although a decision on the coaching staff isn't expected for a week or so, it will be a major surprise if Carolina coach Peter Laviolette doesn't return as head coach after being the U.S. bench boss for the past two World Championships.

John Tortorella, the coach of the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, is also expected to return as an assistant.

Former U.S. national team player and highly respected college coach Mike Eaves has been rumored as a candidate for one of the other assistant coaching jobs. Bruins coach Mike Sullivan would also be worthy of consideration.

Waddell, a native of Detroit, has been the GM of the Thrashers since their inception in 1999. He was an assistant GM in Detroit during the Wings' championship season in 1997-98 and was recently named as one of four general managers on the NHL's new competition committee.

Holmgren, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, played 527 NHL games with Philadelphia and Minnesota before becoming an assistant, and then head coach, at the NHL level. The 49-year-old has been a longtime scout and assistant general manager under Bob Clarke in Philadelphia.

Scott Burnside is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.