Dan Bylsma has never coached hockey at the international level. The Pittsburgh Penguins coach does, however, know how to win while juggling a roster dotted with superstars.
That was good enough for USA Hockey to select Bylsma as coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Saturday, hoping the free-flowing style he teaches translates well to the wider rinks that await in Sochi, Russia in February.
The 42-year-old Michigan native didn’t hide from the glaring hole in his resume moments after being introduced. When asked how he was going to build on his limited experience in international coaching, Bylsma quickly offered a correction.
“I don’t have any experience,” Bylsma said with a laugh. “So ‘very little’ is wrong.”
The next eight months should take care of that as the U.S. vies for its first gold medal since the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980.
The U.S. won silver in 2002 at Salt Lake City and was runner-up to Canada in Vancouver three years ago, losing 3-2 in overtime when Penguins star Sidney Crosby beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller 7:40 into the extra session.
Bylsma, who won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Crosby, was watching the game from a restaurant when he saw his captain take a pass from Jarome Iginla and race in on Miller to produce one of the most iconic moments in the history of the sport.
“I got off of my chair because I had a pretty good notion he was going to put that home for the win,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma’s appointment was announced before the NHL has officially decided to take a break next season to allow its players to participate.
NHL officials will meet with the players’ association, the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation in New York on Monday to iron out an agreement that would free up its players to compete in Sochi.