MINSK, Belarus -- Tom Kurvers displayed his talents as an offensive-minded defenseman during 11 NHL seasons, winning a Stanley Cup title with the Montreal Canadians in 1986, however, in his new role with the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team Advisory Group, he is a rookie once again.
Kurvers, the senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Lightning general manager, was approached by Jim Johannson, USA Hockey executive director of hockey operations, and advisory group member David Poile. In early April, following discussions, Kurvers was offered the position with the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team. Poile had first requested permission from Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, which he readily granted.
“I was surprised to be invited in to work with this team,” said Kurvers, during an interview in Minsk. “It was an opportunity that you just don’t get a shot at to participate in often.”
“Having played for a couple of U.S. National Teams in these events, I knew the outline of it, but it has changed a lot since I played and it’s been an interesting process,” said Kurvers, who represented the U.S. on the 1982 U.S. National Junior Team and also won the Hobey Baker Award in 1984, while at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The U.S. Men’s National Team Advisory Group was established in February of 2007 to assist USA Hockey with the selection of both players and staff of U.S. Men’s National Teams, including the Olympic Team.
Kurvers joins a brain trust of brilliant hockey minds comprised of NHL general managers Stan Bowman (Chicago), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles), Poile (Nashville) and Dale Tallon (Florida). Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, Pittsburgh Penguins pro scout Don Waddell, Ray Shero and Johannson round out the advisory group.
“He’s a classy guy with a lot to say and with tremendous knowledge,” said Tallon about Kurvers. “He’s been around for a long time as a player, scout and assistant GM; he’s very well connected in Minnesota which is a hotbed for USA Hockey, and he’s not afraid to voice his opinion so he fits in nicely.”
“You’re not going to re-invent anything, you just step in and try to understand what their process is,” said the 51-year-old Kurvers about joining the advisory group. “There is a lot of communication, but the process is very precise and they know the pace of things to build the team.”
At the world championship in Minsk, Kurvers continues to witness firsthand the skilled and savvy play of his Tampa Bay Lightning rookie of the year candidate, Tyler Johnson. The 23-year-old Johnson – who had 24 goals and 26 assists for the Lightning this season – has skated on the most productive line for Team USA alongside Craig Smith and Brock Nelson, scoring two goals and three assists in five games.
“He’s really made great progress over the last couple of years,” Kurvers said about Johnson. “He was undrafted, we were able to sign him and he’s earned everything he’s had in the NHL. I think when he comes to an event like this, it just broadens the number of people who know how good he is.”
Seeing Kurvers around the arena and collaborating with the advisory group, it is evident that the two-time member of the U.S. Men’s National Team (1987, ’89) relishes his new role and return to ice hockey’s global championship.
“What has been enjoyable, having played in the event and getting back to see it again reminds you that you can’t get the same feel of the game unless you are here,” Kurvers said. “To see the crowd juice the game up when we played Belarus and Russia, to be here is pretty awesome.
“I think the profile of the event is growing among players in the NHL and in North America. All the games are on TV now in the U.S., it’s a bigger deal and great to be a part of once again.”
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