The Olympic buildings in Sochi are taking shape. USA Hockey's Jim Johannson was in Sochi last month just as the roof was being put on the arena where men's hockey will be played during the 2014 Olympics.
Just by looking at the concrete base, he could tell the sight lines are going to be great for hockey. He estimated that it will hold around 12,000 seats, a hockey venue closer in size to the one in Salt Lake City than Vancouver. The views around it are spectacular.
"There's palm trees and you look out and see the mountains," Johannson said when we chatted on Monday afternoon. "The skating venues are all right next to each other. On a 45-minute walk a guy could walk through every venue -- speed skating, curling, hockey -- aesthetically they look like they're going to be very nice venues. Convenient, right next to the village."
The progress is a sign that the games will be here before we know it. So was Hockey Canada's announcement on Monday of its management team. No surprises there, as Steve Yzerman was tapped to lead Canada's defense of the gold medal.
USA Hockey plans on waiting until we know for sure whether or not NHL players will be participating in the Olympics before announcing its management team, but it would be a shocker if anybody but Brian Burke gets the job as the Team USA general manager.
"He's the front-runner," said Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon, a part of the Team USA advisory committee. "He's experienced, is good at what he does ... he's a strong leader."
The advisory committee is loaded with general managers capable of doing the job, including Ray Shero, David Poile, Dean Lombardi, Paul Holmgren, Stan Bowman and Tallon. But Burke's success in Vancouver, where he took a risk with a young American roster that fell just one goal short of a gold medal, should earn him another opportunity. So does his willingness to do anything for USA hockey -- from youth hockey initiatives to Olympic planning.
So it's no surprise that he'd accept the GM position if asked.
"I will always assist USA Hockey in whatever capacity they request," Burke wrote in an email Tuesday morning. "Head guy, assistant, bus driver. Whatever they ask or need."
Things aren't so clear at head coach. And that's where it gets interesting for the Americans.
It might be the deepest pool of coaching candidates in the history of the program.
"I don't know what the pool was like before. It's certainly a terrific pool now," Tallon said. "It's exciting. USA Hockey is really coming on. More and more players, coaches, everything."
Here's a look at the top three Team USA Olympic coaching candidates:
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