Yzerman takes job as Team Canada GM for world hockey championship

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

He's just not looking that far ahead yet. "We'll kind of see how this goes," Yzerman said Tuesday from Calgary. "As the years go by I don't know where I'm going to be or what I'm going to be doing. "But I'm certainly excited about this opportunity right now."

Stevie Y is quick to point out that he's not long removed from his retirement as a player and is still getting his feet wet in the front office.

To that end, the experience he'll gain in assembling Canada's entry for the event in Moscow this April and May should be invaluable.

Not that Yzerman is lacking for experience. His resume as a player includes two Olympics, three world championships, a World Cup, Canada Cup and world junior championship.

He was an integral part of the team that ended Canada's 50-year Olympic gold medal drought in 2002, when he essentially played on one leg because of a serious knee injury.

"He was really a leader with Team Canada the last number of years," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson. "We see that helping with his relationship with players but I really see him taking a great leadership role with this team on a management (level).

"I think Steve will (make the transition) from the ice to management very easily."

It's something the Detroit Red Wings have already seen since hiring Yzerman as a vice-president after he ended a 23-year playing career over the summer.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland put together last year's world championship team and thinks the role will suit Yzerman well.

"I talked to him a number of times about it," Holland told The Canadian Press. "It's a tremendous opportunity for Steve and at the same time I think it's great for Canada.

"The thing about Steve is he's got great passion. He's really excited. I know he's already watching guys and he's done a lot of brain picking."

It would be foolish to expect anything less from one of the greatest players of all-time.

One of the primary reasons many expect this to be the first in a series of jobs with Hockey Canada for Yzerman is because of the blueprint drafted by Wayne Gretzky.

The Great One was GM of the 2001 world championship team before serving as executive director of the 2002 and 2006 Olympic squads.

Hockey Canada believes that using the world championship to develop continuity in all areas of its Olympic team is an important factor in achieving success.

"Any time that we put a (world championship) team together our first priority is to go over and to win," said Nicholson. "But also when you look at the big picture, we have to look at pieces for the future."

One of Yzerman's first tasks will be selecting a coach.

Marc Habscheid guided last year's team when he held the role of national team coach, but he's since taken a job with the Boston Bruins.

It leaves Yzerman with several candidates to consider. An announcement will likely take some time as he waits to see which NHL teams will miss the playoffs.

That same factor will dictate which players he selects. Expect Yzerman to target some of the country's younger players, just as Canada did last year in Riga, Latvia.

Sidney Crosby led the 2006 worlds in scoring and was named its top forward. Even though Canada lost a bronze-medal game to Finland and ended up fourth, it was a good chance for Crosby to get more international experience ahead of the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Yzerman played for Canada at the world championship in 1985 (winning a silver medal), 1989 (silver) and 1990, when he was named the tournament's top forward after racking up 10 goals and 20 points in 10 games.

He recalls returning to the Red Wings with a little more confidence after those tournaments.

"It can be a real positive thing for your hockey career," said Yzerman "The more of those (high-pressure) situations you can be in and excel in, (the better).

"It's a real confidence booster. You just become a better player."

Holland managed to lure the likes of Crosby and Brendan Shanahan to Latvia last year, but knows how much of a challenge it can be to assemble a top-notch team.

He's hopeful that Yzerman's involvement might make that task a little easier in 2007.

"Trying to convince people that have been through an 82-game grind - especially some of the older guys - can be tough," said Holland. "But I'd like to think the opportunity to play for Canada with Stevie Y as the GM is a special one.

"Hopefully, it helps the recruiting process."


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