Friday, February 14, 2014

USA Hockey: The best hockey team you've never seen

Dave Hogg, FOX Sports Detroit wrote this article and I thought it was worth a look. Good stuff here. Some things to think about as USA Hockey plays in the 2014 Sochi Olympics games.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- "The U.S. is a powerhouse now, and you can see the envy in the programs from other countries," U-17 coach Don Granato said. "There's a fear factor for them -- it is scary to see the accelerated pace that hockey has developed in the United States."

Although the kids spend only two seasons in Ann Arbor, their impact on American hockey spreads far beyond youth tournaments. Seven NDTP graduates were on the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and there are nine currently playing in Sochi: goalie Jimmy Howard (Red Wings); defensemen Justin Faulk (Hurricanes), Cam Fowler (Ducks), Kevin Shattenkirk (Blues) and Ryan Suter (Wild); and forwards Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Ryan Kesler (Canucks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs) and James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs).

Those currently in the program aren't getting to watch much of the Olympics. They're sleeping while the Games are taking place, getting ready for their dual lives as hockey players and full-time students at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. But they're keeping track of what's happening.

"Once you play with 'USA' on your chest, it means even more to watch the Olympic team," U-18 forward Dylan Larkin said. "That team is where every American hockey player wants to be."

The program has succeeded at so many levels -- almost every player goes on to a college career and more than 130 have ended up in the NHL -- that it's hard to believe how hard Jeff Jackson had to fight to create it. In 1996, Jackson, who made a name in hockey with two NCAA titles at Lake Superior State, was interviewing for a position as USA Hockey's national coach. When he returned for his second interview, he came with a plan that would change men's hockey in the United States.

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