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Past U.S. stars know no miracles necessary in 2014

by Adam Kimelman

As young hockey players, Bill Guerin and Doug Weight were drawn to hockey in part to the success of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic hockey team.

Today, though, both know that no miracle would be needed for the U.S. to win the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I think where we are now with USA Hockey, I don't think it would be a miracle anymore and I don't think it would shock the world," Guerin said Monday, prior to his induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. "That's the position USA Hockey has put itself in. We go not only to compete but to win. We expect to win."

Guerin did his share of winning at the Olympic level. He played for the U.S. at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympics, winning a silver medal in 2002.

Weight was his teammate on all three teams, and shared Guerin's enthusiasm for a strong American showing in Russia.

"I feel like we should be right in the hunt as far as the talks of at the very least medaling and having a chance to win this tournament," he said. "Obviously Canada can probably put together two teams that can compete against each other and have a heck of a time. They're unbelievable, but we've proven that it's not just a freak thing to beat them. Now we're excited to be able to compete with the great nations."

Their playing days behind them, Guerin and Weight now work in player development -- Guerin is the Pittsburgh Penguins' director of player development while Weight is an assistant coach and senior advisor to the general manager for the New York Islanders. From their vantage points, they see a deep, talented field of players for USA Hockey to select from.

"I'm thrilled about the guys that are going to be going over there," Guerin said. "They've got skill, they've got grit, they've got character. I think it's going to be a great Olympics."

One difference that could come into play is the larger ice surface for the 2014 Olympics. No North American team has won a medal in games played outside North America (1998, Nagano, Japan; 2006, Turin, Italy).

"There's different strategies and different angles, different ways to run your special teams, your goaltending, how you play the puck," Weight said. "There's personnel. … You can have all great players, but you have to find places for them to play and you have to find people that can do well on that big sheet because it is a long tournament. Two weeks doesn't seem long, but you have to have a great system in place and you have to be able to use that extra ice wisely. Whether that's not using and defending smarter or changing certain things, you have to have a game plan on the big sheet."

Guerin, however, doesn't believe the larger international ice surface will play that large a factor in the success or failure of the American team.

"We just have to go over there and play," he said. "We have to do it on the big ice. It can happen. North American teams have won on the big ice before. The game doesn't change, it's just a little bigger rink."


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