MINNEAPOLIS -- The players and coaches participating in the United States National Junior Team selection camp at Mariucci Arena are certainly doing so with heavy hearts this week on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
That's because for the first time in six years, the late Tim Taylor will not play a part of the selection process as the U.S. director of player personnel. Taylor, who succumbed to cancer in April, was an integral part of the country earning medals in three of the past four tournaments, including gold in 2010 in Saskatchewan and 2013 in Russia.
"The one thing we are going to miss this year is the presence and knowledge that Tim Taylor provided us," 2014 U.S. National Junior Team coach Don Lucia told NHL.com. "I was in Lake Placid on two different occasions [during U.S. orientation camp], and the one thing Tim had was an encyclopedic knowledge of every player. He had the book on every guy."
Taylor has a long history as a veteran of two Olympic Winter Games and assistant general manager and assistant coach for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Men's Team in Sarajevo. His tremendous coaching resume included an historic 28-year run as head coach at Yale University and as a volunteer assistant coach for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program for seven years.
"He was a friend, a mentor, to not only the players but the coaching staff," U.S. National Junior Team general manager Jim Johannson said. "I think he's also a guy who gave real identity across all the leagues that these players competed when he was out seeing them, connecting with all the coaches and players.
"He's not a person you replace. He's a guy that we all benefited from and cared so much for that part of that will carry on in our program with how we carry ourselves, the type of representation we want here and also the growth that so many coaches and players had just from being around him."
A tree was actually planted in his honor of Taylor just outside the offices of the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor, Mich., following his passing.
"I remember sitting down with him [in the summer of 2012] when I knew I would probably be coaching the team because I wanted to be a part of it to see how the process went," Lucia said. "I was so impressed with Tim's knowledge. He saw these kids when they were 16- and 17-years-old and went to the World Under-18 Championship every year. He knew every player's strength, weakness and what they could bring to the table.
"I think that's a big void for USA Hockey this year," he continued. "I think he played an invaluable role behind the scenes. He wasn't a guy who wanted the limelight, he just wanted to be a part of it. I'm kind of a big believer in how things shook out last year, whether it was the United States winning that gold medal at world juniors or Yale winning the national title when he was in poor health … there was certainly a little divine intervention going on last year."
Yale University assistant coach Dan Muse, who is serving as U.S. National Junior Team video coach for the second straight season, spent a lot of time with Taylor during the country's gold medal-winning run last season in Ufa, Russia.
"He always had a great way of quickly defining what makes a particular team different," Muse told NHL.com. "He knew the player pool inside and out, starting with the U.S. Team. He'd remember what a player did two years ago; what they do that's different from other teams and how they train to make them different. It was amazing to see that. To have an opportunity to spend all that time with him, and learning how much he knew about each players, it was amazing. He knew strengths and weaknesses, knew them as people and knew what made guys tick.
"There will never be another person like him."