Taylor's Presence Missed at Team USA Camp
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
MINNEAPOLIS Twenty-nine players met Sunday evening in Minneapolis vying for a chance to play on the United States’ 2014 World Junior Championship team in Malmo, Sweden. Joined by Team USA general manager Jim Johannson and head coach Don Lucia, along with Lucia’s coaching staff, the entire group was at Mariucci Arena for a light first practice.
There was one person missing.
Tim Taylor, the architect of so many United States national teams over the last six years and 1994 US Olympic head coach, passed away in April at the age of 71. His presence, however, remains with the national program.
“He’s not a person to replace,” Johannson said about Taylor. “I think he’s a guy we all benefited from and cared so much for, that part of that will carry on throughout our program about how we carry ourselves and the type of representation we want here. And also the growth that so many coaches and players had from being around Tim.”
In an event that consistently sees the best under-20 players face one another year after year, Taylor was one of the few constants within the World Juniors. The United States as a program continued to grow in his time as a volunteer assistant coach. Since 2010, the US WJC team has medaled three times; including two golds.
Although only three players in camp were members of last year’s gold medal winning WJC team, the majority of players in camp this week have grown up wearing the red, white and blue sweater, whether it was for an international tournament or the US Development program.
All but four were in Lake Placid this past August for evaluation.
Taylor had been there for every step of the process prior to his passing. For Lucia, being involved in the process for over a year, preparing for the tournament has not offered any surprises during the lead up to Malmo. Still, there is something missing.
“The only difference is not having Tim Taylor’s vast knowledge,” he said. “It’s something that is missed and will take a while to replace. He had such an intimate knowledge of every player. He was at every 16 camp, every 17 camp. He was with teams that went to the (Ivan) Hlinka tournaments and the under-18 championships.”
That isn’t easy to have with so many players and games going on at once. Johannson, also USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operation, saw more games than he could count. So did former Atlanta Thrasher GM Don Waddell (working as an international consultant to USA Hockey), Ben Smith and Ryan Martin along with Lucia.
“One of the challenges with this team … and why we have people helping – Tim was such a huge asset but now Don Waddell and Ben Smith and Ryan Martin are watching players — it’s hard in our system that is so spread out," Johansson said. "Colleges are playing weekends only. It’s hard to get to see all the guys. We need a little bit more eyes on guys and that is why they were at Lake Placid as well.”
But to Johannson and Lucia, the biggest loss is not being without Taylor’s encyclopedic knowledge of the future of US Hockey. It is not having the man.
Even if his presence remains with those Taylor has influenced.
“He’s a friend, a mentor to not only the players but the coaching staff,” Johannson said.