By amuir29
December 12, 2013

Dan Church has resigned as coach of Canada's Olympic women's hockey team. Coach Dan Church (left) and his 2012 World Champions were hailed by the Senators. (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Just two months away from puck drop at the Sochi Olympics, the defending gold medalist women's team is looking for a new coach.

According to Hockey Canada, Dan Church cited "personal reasons" for his decision to resign abruptly today.

“We understand that this was a very difficult decision for Dan,” said Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada's general manager for women's teams. “We are certainly very appreciative that he came to this conclusion with the best interests of the team in mind.”

This is an absolute stunner. What could possibly make the departure of the head coach just ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi a decision "in the best interests of the team"? Already, speculation is swirling that Church, who guided Team Canada to gold at the 2012 IIHF World Championships, didn't leave the team of his own accord.

Church did not attend the Hockey Canada press conference announcing his resignation, but he did send out a one-word tweet early this morning:

Team Canada is slated to meet Team USA in pre-Olympic exhibition action tonight in Calgary. Assistants Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley will be interim co-coaches for this one, but no word yet on what Hockey Canada's plans are moving forward.

Goyette, regarded as one of the smartest ever to play the women's game, has head coaching potential, but throwing her into the cauldron of the Olympics with no international head coaching experience is asking for trouble.

Davidson, on the other hand, is one of the most decorated coaches in the sport's history, guiding Canada to gold in both 2006 and 2010. At this point, she seems to be the safest, and most likely, choice to take over the role.

UPDATE: "If there isn't confidence in what I'm doing, I need to step aside and let the team move on," Church told The Canadian Press this afternoon. "I'm heartbroken, to be honest, about the whole situation."

"Just discussions I'd had over the last few days made that apparent, in some meetings I'd had with leadership," Church said, without identifying whether that leadership was management or players. "I think it was just difference of opinion on the direction we were headed.

"In the end, I just decided if I'm getting in the way of where the team needs to go, I need to step aside and let them continue on in the process."

TSN quoted Davidson as saying that she was not interested in the job, but would be involved in the process to identify Church's successor. With so little time to spare, expect someone to be named within a matter of days.

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