Maple Leaf new target for Wilson

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- On the day he was announced as Toronto Maple Leafs coach, Ron Wilson made a point of flashing both his American and Canadian passports.

He's going to need them now more than ever.

But here's all you need to know about Wilson, who on Monday will be named the coach of the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Games: As much as he will relish the challenge of building up the blue-and-white Maple Leaf, he's just as game for stripping down the red-and-white version.

Along with his partner in crime, Leafs president and GM Brian Burke, the pair is a perfect fit for what will be the most scrutinized hockey tournament in the history of the sport.

"It would be a tremendous honour," Wilson said yesterday while refusing to admit his hiring, though not denying it either.

"As far as I know, nothing is going to be determined until Monday."

Perhaps not officially, but let's just say Wilson will have to do some scrambling to keep his single-digit golf handicap in order this summer.

It will start days after the Leafs wind up their season next weekend.

Sun Media has learned Wilson also will guide the U.S. team at the world championship in Switzerland, which will provide him an early opportunity to start scouting for Vancouver.

There may have been other candidates -- Peter Laviolette and John Tortorella come to mind -- but the guess is Wilson was the clear choice for a lengthy list of reasons.

First, there is his connection with Burke.

While Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will expect the pair not spend too much time away from their prime duties with the Leafs, it helps international matters that they work under the same roof.

Burke has promised the U.S. team for Vancouver will be a young squad, which also plays to Wilson's strengths, as he has shown in the way he has handled the Leafs this season.

Then there is the coach's "worldly" experience. His long-standing attachment to USA Hockey includes leading Team USA to gold at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

He also was behind the bench for the 1998 Olympics and 1994 and 1996 world championships.

Finally, his experience in Toronto has only strengthened Wilson's credentials.

The ease with which he brushes off the media when the mood strikes will serve him well in Vancouver, where the hype will get beyond crazy.

And he will love every minute of it.


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