The players were different. The results were similar.
In the span of five months Phil Housley, hired last week as an assistant coach by the Nashville Predators, was a part of two medal winning efforts with USA Hockey. He was head coach of the team that won gold at the World Junior Championships and an assistant with the national team that won bronze this month at the World Championships.
That multi-generational success were the latest in a long line of international achievement that prompted the organization on Wednesday to name him the 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award winner. The award is presented to a U.S. citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions on or off the ice to the sport in America.
“The difference is just maturity and strength and power of the pros versus the younger kids,” Housley said recently. “… They learn to be pros and approach the game the right way. Those things take time to become a really good pro day in and day out. They come to the rink ready and prepared, and that’s the difference that I saw.”
Twice previously (2007 and 2011), Housley was an assistant with the junior national team, and both times the U.S. won bronze medals.
The gold medal with him in charge was the third all-time and second in three years.
“I think this last World [Junior] Championships in Ufa, Russia, you saw a lot of the best players that were available to play so there wasn’t much difference in that age group,” he said. “There were some terrific players over there, a lot of them that were NHL guys. That’s why winning that was very special. You can just see the maturity.”
His extensive history with USA Hockey also includes one previous turn as an assistant coach at the World Championships (2010), nine appearances as a player at the World Championships, a silver medal as a player at the 2002 Winter Olympics and an spot with Team USA at the first World Cup of Hockey (1996).
Housley will receive the award at an awards dinner June 7 at Colorado Springs.