Wisconsin Hockey Tony Granato to Coach in 2018 Olympics

Wisconsin Hockey head coach Tony Granato will guide USA men’s hockey at the 2018 Olympics.

Wisconsin Hockey men’s coach Tony Granato will lead the American men’s hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.  Granato is a logical candidate for coaching Team USA having competed as an olympian in the 1988 games as a player and assistant coach in 2014.

The NHL will not be providing players for the 2018 Olympics which should make roster composition a little more unpredictable for Granato and the USA staff.  He can’t simply rely on Olympic veterans of the right age and fitness to fill out the team sheet.

A release from the UW Athletic Department indicates that Granato of course cleared the assignment with AD Barry Alvarez.  The men’s hockey competition will last 11 days.

At present, Wisconsin Hockey projects to be without its head coach for just four conference games. Unfortunately the four games are a two-game set in Madison against defending Big Ten champion Minnesota and a pair of road games against The Ohio State.  The Buckeyes finished in 3rd place in the Big Ten in 2016-2017, just a single point behind Wisconsin Hockey.

According to friend of Badger of Honor and my personal hockey consigliere, Vic Levine, the national role for Granato should help Wisconsin Hockey recruiting by enhancing program prestige.  Levin notes the absence of NHL Players involvement means less time commitment and will shorten Granato’s departure from the Wisconsin Hockey program.

This is not the first time Wisconsin Hockey has lost leadership for national assignments.  Women’s hockey head coach Mark Johnson took an extended leave from Badger hockey for the 2010 Olympics.  Johnson guided the USA women’s hockey team to a silver medal finish losing to host Canada in the gold medal match.  Wisconsin women’s hockey were the defending NCAA champs at the time winning the crown in 2009.  They won it all again in 2011.

While this is of course a tremendous honor for Granato personally and Wisconsin Hockey, it does add a little hurdle or hiccup to the 2017-2018 season.  This puts pressure on Granato and his new staff to ensure his USA preparations and absence don’t distract or detract from the on-ice performance of Badger hockey.  Wisconsin Hockey made a sharp turnaround during Granato’s first year back in Madison and can’t afford to have his Olympic hiatus to impede that progress.

Nonetheless, the opportunity is too rare and the upside for Wisconsin Hockey recognition is too great that sacrificing some weeks of continuity is clearly a net benefit.