MINNEAPOLIS -- As the United States gathers this week at Mariucci Arena for its World Junior Championships Selection Camp, it will bring together players from all backgrounds and locations from around the country.
It will also bring together longtime friends on the bench, where head coach Don Lucia and assistant coach Bob Motzko will be on the same staff for the first time since 2005. Motzko worked under Lucia at the University of Minnesota for four seasons and the two captured national championships in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 title was Minnesota's first since the Herb Brooks-led 1979 team.
"It's good to be back, working around Don again," Motzko said. "It must mean he liked me when we worked together if he wanted me to come back with him.
"It was a big thing for Don and his career to coach this team, we call it a 'Bucket List' thing. For him to ask me, I was honored and I feel very privileged to do it."
Motzko left the Gopher program in the summer of 2005 to take the head coaching at his alma-mater, St. Cloud State, located about 90 minutes west on Interstate 94. Since taking over the Husky program, Motzko has become one of the top collegiate coaches in the country, winning a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association Coach of the Year awards. Last season, SCSU won its first MacNaughton Cup (WCHA regular season champions) and advanced to its first NCAA Frozen Four in school history.
"You surround yourself with good people," Lucia said. "I'm a lot smarter when I have good people around me."
Motzko said that he and Lucia work well together because they see the game and coach it similarly. Both like puck-possession, up-tempo teams with mobile, playmaking defensemen. Even their preparations and how they practice are similar.
"We want the puck, we want to possess the puck," Motzko said. "When I was here, we called it 'Gopher hockey,' I think that was one of the reasons he asked me here, I've always gravitated towards that style of hockey."
With so many new faces on this year's U.S. team, a stable and comfortable bench surely won't hurt.
"We're very comfortable. We've stayed close through the years," Motzko said. "We genuinely like being around each other."