John Vanbiesbrouck, one of the greatest American goaltenders to ever play the game, began leading USA Hockey’s efforts on the international stage in June as assistant executive director for hockey operations.
The Hall of Famer’s NHL career spanned 20 years and 882 games, during which he recorded 374 wins—the most of any American-born goaltender. A Detroit native, Vanbiesbrouck earned the NHL’s Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in 1986 and was a runner-up for the honor in 1994.
Prior to transitioning to his current position, Vanbiesbrouck served as a key volunteer on the USA Hockey Board of Directors, beginning as an athlete director in 2008 and then as a vice president of the organization and chair of the Junior Council for a six-year span that began in 2012.
USA Hockey: Tell us about your new role and key responsibilities.
John Vanbiesbrouck: Ultimately my role is in leading our international program, which includes men’s, women’s and sled hockey and the teams we put on the ice to represent our country at the various levels. I’m also involved with our USA Hockey junior leagues and helping to continue improving the landscape of junior hockey in our country. I’m excited about the future and look forward to working with our athletes, staff, volunteers and the many constituent groups we’re engaged with to continue building on our successes and enhance the game overall. I’m also looking forward to engaging with our alumni. Those of us that have had the chance to be part of a national team as players and staff have had the privilege to represent our country and it’s important that our alumni feel invested, connected and excited about Team USA and our sport in general.
USAH: How can alumni help?
JV: There are many ways alumni can give back to the game. Certainly contributing financially in whatever capacity you’re able to through The USA Hockey Foundation is important and something I’d encourage. I’ve seen firsthand the great things the Foundation has done to help grow and advance our sport during my time serving on the Foundation board of directors. There are other ways to give back to the game too, including volunteering through your local youth hockey association. In the end, we can all do something and it’s because of the passionate people we have involved in our sport that hockey continues to grow.
USAH: How would you describe the state of hockey in the U.S. today?
JV: Our sport has never been stronger overall, which is great to see. That said, we are not close to the proverbial ‘top of the hill.’ But we’re getting closer. And a part of that is the fact that hockey, today, is played in all 50 states in our country and more kids are playing the game than ever before. It’s also great to see the gold-standard coaching and officiating programs we have in place at USA Hockey and the focus we place on helping ensure a safe environment for our athletes. On the international side, today we’re a gold-medal contender in every tournament we play. Last season, in the seven major international tournaments, we earned a medal in six, the best performance of any country. And in the Olympics and Paralympics, of the three disciplines (men, women, sled), our teams won two gold medals. Everyone reading this has played some role in the rise of hockey in the U.S., and while we’re not perfect, we all can be proud of our hockey community as we’re a leader on so many fronts.
John Vanbiesbrouck in his USA playing days.