As a 9-year-old growing up in Wilbraham, Mass., Bill Guerin watched in awe as the United States stunned the mighty Soviet Union on the way to winning the hockey gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
"That had a huge impact on how I saw the game of hockey, the path I wanted to go down and how deep I bled the red, white and blue colors," said Guerin, the Wild's president of hockey operations.
Guerin now will have his chance to build Team USA. On Thursday, he was named GM for the U.S. men's Olympic team for the 2026 Winter Games in Milano-Cortina, Italy.
It's actually the second time he's had the Olympic GM role, but that job ended before the 2022 Beijing Olympics when the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association chose not to send their players to China because of COVID-19 concerns.
Last week, the NHL, NHLPA and International Ice Hockey Federation came to an agreement for NHL players to participate in the 2026 and 2030 Olympics. NHL players last participated in the Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
In Italy, Guerin will try to accomplish something Team USA hasn't since coach Herb Brooks' Miracle on Ice team in Lake Placid: win the gold medal.
"We don't just go to these tournaments to participate," said Guerin, who played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympics. "We go into win, and we've got one of the deepest player pools and staff pools in the world. And those are an expectation now."
Guerin didn't have a timetable for when he'll choose his coaching staff or his players.
"This is extremely fresh and new right now, but in the coming months I'll be working with John [Vanbiesbrouck, assistant executive director for USA Hockey] and some of the other American GMs to get things figured out," he said.
In selecting players for Team USA, Guerin referenced his playing days with the gold medal-winning squad USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
"That was a team that really bonded together, and we had 100% buy-in and 100% accepting of our roles," he said. "We did whatever it took to win."
When it comes time to select the team's captain, Guerin joked that 1980 captain Mike Eruzione might volunteer for the role. Guerin, though, will look for the unifying qualities Eruzione showed in Lake Placid.
"What we're going to have to do is find a guy that's going to be able to be the liaison between players and coaches and staff, somebody that the players gravitate to, who's an inclusive type of guy," Guerin said. "Somebody that's got a warrior-type mentality, a winning mentality and a team-first mentality."