It was the 2010 World Juniors Championship when former Hershey Bears‘ defensemen John Carlson stunned the Canadian Nation with an overtime game-winning goal in the gold medal game. Five months later, Carlson helped the Bears to their 11th Calder Cup before riding off to the National Hockey League.
Three years later, a member of the Bears’ mile long alumni list looks to pursue a gold medal in the 2013 World Juniors Championship. Grant Potulny suited up in a Hershey uniform for 50 games during the 2007-08 season and tallied 19 goals. Although he never won a Calder Cup in his six seasons playing in the AHL, he looks to win gold as an assistant coach for Team USA in the annual World Juniors tournament. Grant began his coaching career during the 2009-10 season at the University of Minnesota as an assistant.
Through his years, Potulny became great friends with Phil Housley who was chosen to lead Team USA as head coach during this year’s tournament. Luckily for Grant, Housley had the right to choose his assistant coaches, and chose three men fairly close to him. “A staff only works well when there is cohesion and high comfort levels between all members”, said a humbled and honored Potulny. He continued, Our personal relationship was something that I do not believe Phil overlooked.”
Although he lasted only one season in Hershey, Potulny will always cherish the time spent in Chocolate Town. “Hershey was a great experience for me a hockey player and a family man. The fans were unbelievable and very welcoming. Doug Yingst treated players with respect and in my opinion tried to make the players feel as comfortable as possible.” Aside from playing hockey, during his time in Hershey Potulny learned some of his ultimate lessons on life. “Treat people with respect, work hard and if you do the things the right way and you will succeed.”
In the minds of many Hershey fans, the 2007-08 season will often be remembered as the year Bruce Boudreau received his first promotion to an NHL coaching job. Bob Woods took over as head coach in Hershey November of 2007, before he received similar fate and earned the call to coach in the National Hockey League two years later.
Being coached by two men who eventually made it to the majors had nothing but a positive impact on Grant. “Bruce and Bob are great coaches. They always treated players with respect and never made anything personal”, said Potulny. He continued, “I follow the same rules as a coach. Players want to receive hard coaching, and if they know it’s not personal they will respond to the teaching and coaching.”
Team USA in the World Juniors has won only two gold medals, one silver and four bronze dating back to 1974. Following their recent semi-finals win against Team Canada on January 3rd, the United States will battle Sweden on January 5th in the prestigious Gold Medal Game.