Ron Wilson officially named U.S. Olympic coach

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson will coach the U.S. hockey team at the upcoming world championships and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson will coach the U.S. hockey team at the upcoming world championships and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

USA Hockey made the official announcement Monday morning. 

The possibility of Wilson coaching the U.S. Olympic effort a second time was first mentioned last week, but his possible involvement with the world championship, which gets underway in Switzerland on April 24, was less widely reported.

"We're going to have a young team, we're going to have an aggressive team. We want to play an attacking style," Wilson said during a conference call. "That's what I've tried to kind of incorporate here in Toronto with a very young team and an inexperienced team. We've had a little bit of success playing that way and I'd like to continue that."

Together again

The Leafs coach will again be working for Brian Burke. The Maple Leafs general manager holds the same title for the U.S. team, set to play at the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Wilson and Burke played hockey together at Providence College in the mid-1970s, but never worked together in an NHL capacity until this season.

"Ronnie and I have been friends and teammates going back 30-plus years and there will be people who say, 'Isn't this convenient that Burkie picked his best buddy,"' Burke said. "I will tell you that when we talked about the head coaching job for Switzerland and Vancouver I did not weigh in until the rest of the committee had done so, but I think we'd be fools to pass on Ron Wilson because he is a buddy of mine, which he is.

"He's also, we feel, the best coach to give us the best chance of success in Switzerland and Vancouver." 

Wilson, 53, coached the Americans to their biggest professional tournament win ever, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. The U.S. defeated Canada in the final in Montreal.

But less than two years later, he guided the U.S. team that finished a disappointing sixth at the 1998 Nagano Games under GM Lou Lamoriello. Some players were taken to task for wrecking furniture in the Olympic village after their elimination.

Wilson also coached the U.S. team at the 2004 World Cup, which lost in the semifinals to eventual runner-up Finland. Canada won the tourney.

He also pointed out to reporters last week his previous experience in international tournaments of less prestige, including the Spengler Cup and Goodwill Games.

The late Herb Brooks, who guided American amateurs to the gold medal in 1980, was behind the bench as the U.S. took silver in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, with Peter Laviolette's team in Torino in 2006 stumbling to an eighth-place finish.

Wilson holds dual citizenship

Wilson is in his first year as Maple Leafs coach after signing a lucrative four-year deal last May. The club last week was eliminated from the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Toronto plays in New Jersey on Tuesday.

He previously coached the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, and has an overall NHL record of 550 wins, 460 losses, 59 overtime losses and 101 ties.

Wilson spent the first 12 years of his life in Ontario — he was born in Windsor and lived in Fort Erie — before his family moved to Rhode Island. He holds dual citizenship.

Wilson joins Brooks, Murray Williamson and Dave Peterson as two-time Olympic coaches of the men's team.

Mark Johnson, on the Brooks team for the so-called Miracle on Ice in 1980, has previously been announced as the coach for the U.S. women at the 2010 Olympics.

With files from the Associated Press