Stars and stripes looking brighter

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Art Berglund has never gone to the IIHF World Hockey Championships like this before.

"I've been doing this for 30 years and this is the first time we haven't had to look at taking college kids and AHL players over with us," said the senior director of international hockey, who will take Team USA to his 10th Olympics in five decades next year.

"I'm real pleased to go to the world championships with our head held high and not worried about being ambushed by Denmark like we were a couple of years ago.

"It's great to go over this year and not be going over to protect our seed in order not to go down to 'B' pool," he said of the Americans who have been up and down like a yo-yo over the years, finishing 13th two years ago and then watching Ty Conklin manufacture a mini miracle on ice to provide the Americans with a bronze medal.

Berglund goes back.

"We were in 'B' pool in 1974. You know who played for me that year to help get us back into 'A' pool? Guy by the name of Bob Goodenow," he said of the much-maligned head of the National Hockey League Players' Association.

"In '82 in Finland, the year Gretzky first played for Canada, Italy beat us and we had to go down to 'B' pool and play in Japan.

"There really have been a lot of ups and downs in the program. But it's stabilizing now. In 1976 we won a bronze medal at the world championships. Until we won another one last year .... it's been pretty sparse."

Competitive in the World Junior, the World Cup and the Olympics, the Americans have always thrown teams together and crossed their fingers at the Worlds.

The problem is that players go over and nobody knows they're there.

"I rode in with Doug Weight today and I told him that he could score a hat trick and lead us to a gold medal and he might get a paragraph in the St. Louis paper. In Canada, if a player makes a mistake which costs a game, when he goes home to Estavan, Saskatchewan, in the summer, he's going to hear about it.

"It gives Canada an accountability we just don't have. I don't know if we'll ever have that.

"We know we have high-end players. We've got the production coming. We've always had core players. But now we have depth.

"We don't have to expect miracles any more," he said of the country which is still living off the 1980 Miracle On Ice Olympic gold.

For the first time in history, Berglund says, Team USA isn't going to the Worlds having players say no. Thanks to the lockout and the young talent, they've been able to say no to players like Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Bryan Leetch, Bill Guerin, Jamie Langenbrunner, etc.

"They've had their kick at the can," he said of the group which got old and showed it at the World Cup.

"We're trying to move to the next wave of players.

"We had players call us this year. That's unusual. I enjoyed that."


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