Willie Desjardins was named Canada’s men’s hockey coach for the Olympics on Tuesday, three months after the Vancouver Canucks fired him after three seasons.
Desjardins, 60, will coach the first Canadian Olympic team without NHL participation since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.
Sean Burke, a 1988 and 1992 Canadian Olympic goalie, is the general manager.
With NHL players, Canada won the 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles. In PyeongChang, Canada can become the first nation to three-peat as Olympic men’s hockey champion since the Soviet Union in 1976.
Canada will use a series of tournaments in the next several months to evaluate players before it names its 25-man Olympic team.
Former NHL players Cam Barker, Ben Scrivens and Max Talbot all played last season in the Russian KHL, which does take an Olympic break. All three will play for Canada in games in Russia in August.
Players in the American Hockey League, the top NHL feeder league, who aren’t on NHL contracts will also be eligible for PyeongChang.
Every Canadian Olympic men’s coach in the NHL participation era was also an NHL head coach that season — Marc Crawford (1998), Pat Quinn (2002 and 2006) and Mike Babcock (2010 and 2014).
The U.S. Olympic men’s hockey coach is expected to be announced in early August.
MORE: NHL releases schedule with no Olympic break
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If it’s up to him, Martin Brodeur won’t be on the Canadian Olympic Team.
Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time wins leader and a two-time Olympic champion, told TSN 1050 that Canada’s goalies at the Sochi Olympics should be the Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith and the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price.
“I think it’s Luongo’s job to lose,” Brodeur said. “He’s had a decent season so far, and I think he should be the one who has a chance to start the tournament.”
It was Brodeur who lost his job to Luongo after three games at the 2010 Olympics. Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal, but he has been up and down (mostly down) since, opening the door for several other options.
Canada is loaded with skaters in its bid to become the first nation to win back-to-back Olympic titles since the Soviet era. But its goalie situation is seen as a bit of a question mark.
Brodeur not picking himself is not surprising. He’s 41 and splitting time on the Devils with American Cory Schneider. Two of the best Canadian goalies so far this season, statistically, are the Minnesota Wild’s Josh Harding (5-2-1, 1.00 goals-against average, .953 save percentage) and 2010 Olympian Marc-Andre Fleury (8-2, 1.79, .928).
There’s also the goalie for the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks — Corey Crawford — and the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby, who were invited to an orientation camp in August with Luongo, Smith and Price.
Olympic rosters are due at the end of the year.
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