February 14, 2010
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The emails from Coach Ron Wilson to his players began somewhere around Christmastime.
Notes about how to prepare for the Winter Games. Motivational material, like a disparaging remark about Team USA's chances in the Olympic hockey tournament in a Canadian newspaper. Reminders about the timing of travel, practices, and events in anticipation of the chaos.
Recently he sent a PDF document that went over the basic system the team practiced during orientation and will play in the tournament, which begins Tuesday against the Swiss.
Wilson said the toughest aspect of his job at this stage is quickly building chemistry. Part of that building was staying in touch with his players and informing them of line combinations a week ago, just so they'd begin to consider the dynamics of those lines. (So far, we know it'll be Zach Parise(notes)-Paul Stastny-Patrick Kane(notes) on one line and Dustin Brown(notes)-Ryan Kesler-Jamie Langenbrunner(notes) on another.)
Wilson spoke with the media after the main news conference Sunday about a number of topics, some of which are in the following video clip. Can winning a gold medal affect his coaching legacy or his current standing in the NHL as a coach? Is Tim Thomas(notes) still the No. 2 goalie? Finally: What effect has the death of Brian Burke's son had, or will it have, on the U.S. team?
Video after the jump ...
New Jersey Devils winger Parise said there was a moment of doubt in his mind regarding Burke's attendance at the Games after the death of Brendan Burke in an auto accident earlier this month. Will Brendan's legacy, and their team executive's tragedy, come up in the locker room during the tournament?
"It could," said Parise. "There's no question the players are definitely aware of it. If you need extra motivation – and I don't think players at this stage will need it – then we really want to win it for him."
Captain Langenbrunner, also of the Devils, said that it won't come up as "a rallying thing" but that the players "understand what [Brian Burke] is going through, and want to give him something to be proud of."
The Brendan Burke story, as it relates to the Olympics, is a difficult one to process. It is a story, as shown by the reporters who are asking Burke and others about it. Yet no Brendan Burke questions were asked in the large news conference here in Vancouver, only in the smaller sessions with Burke, Wilson, and the players.
There's a sensitivity against glorifying this painful moment as sports page fodder. Hopefully that sensitivity remains during the tournament.