The Athletic’s Craig Custance went behind the scenes with Team USA’s World Championship team and coaches to learn how the American hockey machine works. Custance penned a superb and lengthy article:
It’s 7 a.m. in Herning and it’s quiet on Ostergade, a rarity for the street that has been the gathering place for the outdoor party that is the men’s hockey World Championship. No music is coming from Piano Herning, the piano bar that was jammed a few hours earlier with hockey fans singing loudly into the streets. Karma, Fox and Hounds, the Old Irish Pub, all still. Only a slight breeze, flapping a string of flags connecting one side of the street to the other, makes noise, an empty fifth of Jack Daniels on a nearby stoop a reminder of what happened the night before. What’s going to happen again tonight. And the next.
A few blocks down, at the Scandic Regina hotel, Team USA coach Jeff Blashill wakes up.
In an hour, the coaching staff for Team USA will join him in a makeshift coaches office on the second floor of the hotel. He pulls on gray slacks, pulls over a navy USA Hockey shirt. Grabs a pair of boat shoes and puts them on without socks. Even this early, the stylish Blashill is polished.
At 44 years old, he’s still one of the youngest coaches in the NHL. But his fast track to the coaching heights has been derailed a bit, more by timing than anything. He got the job in Detroit as the coach of the Red Wings during a time in which the franchise was downshifting from contender to rebuilder.
“He’s a really good hockey mind,” Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez says. Martinez has known Blashill since he was 16. Blashill recruited him to play at Miami. Blashill went to Martinez’s Stanley Cup parties when the Rochester Hills, Michigan, native was winning championships with the Kings, always careful not to touch the silver trophy. Blashill is one of the main reasons a veteran like Martinez is even playing in this tournament, typically a duty for the youngest American NHL players.
“He had one of the most rapid ascensions to the coaching ranks I’ve ever seen,” Martinez says. “There’s a reason for it. He’s won everywhere he goes.”
Custance continues (paywall)…