Mike Sullivan has been behind the bench for Team USA at the World Championship and the Winter Olympics. Now, he will be able to add World Cup to his international coaching experience.
The Penguins head coach will serve as an assistant under John Tortorella for Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, set for Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto.
“It’s a great honor,” Sullivan told the Penguins website. “It’s a great privilege to be a part of an event like the World Cup. I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of the Olympics, the World Championships. Any time you have an opportunity to represent your country, it’s a special event.”
Sullivan is joined by fellow former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, now head coach of the New Jersey Devils, on Tortorella’s staff along with Jack Capuano, Phil Housley and Scott Gordon.
“It is certainly an honor to be a part of such a great coaching staff with some of the other American-born coaches,” Sullivan said. “There are a lot of real good American-born coaches, so I know that the powers that be could have went in any direction and would have been represented very well. For myself to be a part of this staff is a real privilege.”
Sullivan, who grew up in Marshfield, Mass., has been involved with USA Hockey for years dating back to his playing days.
The former Boston University Terrier competed for the United States at the 1988 World Junior Championship and 1997 World Championship before later serving as head coach for Team USA at the 2007 World Championship and assistant coach for the 2006 Olympics and 2008 World Championship.
The 47-year-old has been fortunate enough to represent his country on a number of occasions, and said the honor never gets old.
“Whenever you have an opportunity to be involved in an event like this – the World Cup or the Olympics, where it’s truly the pinnacle of your sport – I mean, it’s the best of the best,” Sullivan said. “So when you have an opportunity to interact and compete with and against the best of the best, it’s such a great feeling. It’s such a great honor.”
Out of all those experiences, the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy is what stands out the most to Sullivan when reflecting upon his time with USA Hockey.
“What jumps out at me is just the appreciation that I have for how great the athletes are – both our players and the players we compete against,” Sullivan said.
“To have an opportunity to live in the Olympic Village and go to lunch with some of the other athletes that didn’t even play the sport of hockey that were competing in the Winter Olympics, and listen to the stories and get to know them a little bit and the sacrifices that these people make to be the best at what they do, for me, really, really had a huge impact on me as far as what it takes to be the best and the sacrifices that these people make.”
Team USA will hold training camp at Nationwide Arena in Columbus beginning Sept. 4 and running through Sept. 9, ending with an exhibition game against Canada. The biggest challenge in tournaments like these, said Sullivan, is that they don’t get the luxury of allowing a team to evolve.
“You have to whip it into shape right away as far as creating an identity for the group and how we want to play and then down to a man, what everybody’s role is going to be and how they’re going to contribute to helping us win,” Sullivan said. “It’s not just the players. It’s the coaching staff as well. So the roles we’re all going to play are going to be clearly defined and everybody’s going to do what they can to make sure they grab an oar and they row in the right direction.”
Hopefully, towards a gold medal.