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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Ray Shero has helped mold the Penguins into a Stanley Cup playoff team this season.

The Penguins’ executive vice president/general manager has another task, too – shape the United States hockey team into a gold-medal challenger.

Shero was one of four top NHL executives chosen by USA Hockey to form a National Team Management Advisory Group, whose task will be to assist in the selection of future U.S. national teams.

Shero joins Brian Burke, executive vice president and general manager of the Anaheim Ducks; David Poile, executive vice president of hockey operations and general manager of the Nashville Predators; and Don Waddell, executive vice president and general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers on the advisory group. 

“We’re fortunate to have assembled some of the most respected general managers in the game to assist us in selecting our men’s national teams,” said Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey and international council chair. “They’ve each been terrific contributors to hockey in the United States over the years and we’re grateful they’ve agreed to serve as part of the National Team Management Advisory Group.”All four executives have nearly 80 years of combined management experience in hockey.

“It’s a pretty amazing group,” said Jim Johannson, who oversees international competition for USA Hockey as its senior director of hockey operations. “Every one of them has enjoyed tremendous success in their career. It will be extremely beneficial to utilize their knowledge and experience when we sit down to put together future men’s national teams.”

The group first met together in February to help lay the groundwork for Team USA’s entry into this summer’s IIHF World Championships in Russia.

“It’s been great. We got together down at the NHL general managers meeting and that was really good,” Shero said. “We got together with Jim Johansson and [Exectuive Director] Dave Ogrean from USA Hockey. We went through a list of things – players, staff – a game plan, basically. That was real good. So, basically everything right now is leading up to the World Championships in Russia. That’s going to be interesting and educational. From all of us being with USA Hockey, we’re all willing to help the program and do what we can to move the program forward.”

Shero, Burke, Poile and Waddell will use their vast NHL knowledge and resources to help piece together Team USA squads.

“Basically, we help select the players and coaching staff, training staff and things like that just leading up to the World Championships,” Shero said. “Next year, the tournament is going to be in Canada, which will be a huge thing. We’ll be working on getting the player availability for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, too.”

Shero is optimistic about the future of USA Hockey.

“I think the next couple World Championships are going to be really key for USA Hockey, especially in 2009,” he said. “We’ll identify the players and gather information on the players. I think it’s easier when you have general managers who have certain contacts when trying to get players who are done competing in the playoffs and at the end of the regular season to play in the World Championships. Hopefully, all four of us can help in that respect.”

Shero, in his first year with Pittsburgh, adds to a rich history of Penguins involvement in USA Hockey, following Craig Patrick and Herb Brooks, among others.

“Absolutely. It’s hard to follow in those footsteps, though. Craig and Herb obviously did wonderful things for USA Hockey,” Shero said. “This is on a lower level, to a certain extent, but we take the role very seriously and want to help out USA Hockey. We have some real good players in the league and in high school and college, so we have some good players coming  up. It’s exciting times for USA Hockey and we’re excited to be part of the committee.”




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