OTTAWA – Steve Yzerman, Canada’s general manager at the last two World Championships, was named Canada’s executive director for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Also named to the management team were associate directors Ken Holland (Detroit Red Wings), Kevin Lowe (president, Edmonton Oilers), and Doug Armstrong, director of player personnel and general manager of Team Canada for the 2009 World Championship (St. Louis Blues).
This means that for the first time since he began his professional international career 27 years ago, Wayne Gretzky will not have a lead role with the Canadian team at the Olympics. He played for Canada at the 1981, 1984, 1987, and 1991 Canada Cup tournaments and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and the 1998 Olympics. After retiring in 1999, he was executive director for Canada at the 2002 Olympics (gold), 2004 World Cup of Hockey (champions), and 2006 Olympics (a worst-ever 7th place). Yzerman announced that Gretzky will serve in an advisory capacity only.
“I’ve already had several conversations with Wayne,” Yzerman revealed today, “and his wisdom will be invaluable. He’s already been through everything, and I appreciate his contributions.”
Yzerman has represented Canada on several occasions as a player, most recently at the 2002 Olympics when Canada won gold. He is currently the vice-president of the Detroit Red Wings and was general manager of Canada for the teams that won gold at the 2007 World Championship and silver this past season. His position with the NHL team allows him enough time to choose a coaching staff and prepare for player selections. The former will be made after the current season and the latter before Christmas 2009.
“Hockey Canada is going to Vancouver to make all Canadians proud in 2010 and Steve is just the person to lead us,” said president Bob Nicholson. “Steve is well respected throughout the hockey world for good reason. He has served this country whenever called upon and we are thrilled that he will be leading our men’s Olympic team in 2010.”
Yzerman will work with Nicholson and Johnny Misley, Hockey Canada’s executive vice president of hockey operations, along with the management staff, to put together Canada’s team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“I am truly honoured and privileged to take on the role of executive director for Hockey Canada going into 2010,” said Yzerman. “I am also very excited about the group that we have in place, a group that has great experience at both the professional and international level. With support from Bob Nicholson, Johnny Misley, and the Hockey Canada team, I know that we have the right mix in place to assemble a team that will make all Canadians proud in 2010.”
Yzerman knows, however, that only one colour matters in his native land. “I know that the expectations of fans are high. We share the passion of all Canadians. I know the goal is a gold medal. That’s our goal, too. Having said that, there’s tremendous talent around the world, so it’s not going to be easy.”
Team Canada 2010 is expected to be radically different from the one that bowed out in the quarter-finals in Turin, and all members of the staff emphasized the difficulty in the process of choosing that roster during the coming year and a half.
“There’ll be fresh faces, for sure” Armstrong admitted. “We’ll see how the young players perform in the coming year under pressure and evaluate them in the playoffs, in hostile environments, that kind of thing.”
Added Holland: “We’re going to play Canadian hockey. It’ll be an advantage to play on an ice surface we’re used to, though,” he said, alluding to the NHL standard for 2010 instead of the wider international surface usually used.
Lowe, a member of staff with Gretzky during the 2002-06 era, also weighed in with the potential makeup of the team. “The world of hockey changed from 2002 to 2006, and I don’t think we recognized that [in Turin]. We’re going to have a team for Vancouver that knows how to handle the puck and move the puck, and has mobility.”
The Vancouver Olympics begin in exactly 482 days. It represents the fourth consecutive Games in which there will be NHL participation. Canada finished fourth in 1998, won gold in 2002, and finished seventh in 2006.