Canada's Yzerman, management team ready for 2010 pressure
Former Red Wing great supported by Holland, Lowe, Armstrong
Hockey Canada officially named Steve Yzerman as the executive director of the 2010 Olympic hockey team on Saturday in Ottawa. The team will try to recapture Olympic gold on home ice in Vancouver.
Yzerman said he knows that for nearly the next two years, he will face intense scrutiny from fans and the media.
"I understand the disappointment if we don't win but it won't be because we weren't prepared," said Yzerman. "I'm not worried about the [expectations], I'll deal with that."
The former Red Wings great played on the winning 2002 team, and after retiring a year later, has apprenticed in the Detroit organization. He served as general manager for Canada's last two world championship squads, which resulted in gold and silver medals.
Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe were named associate directors to Yzerman on Saturday. Doug Armstrong was given director of player personnel responsibilities and will be the general manager for the 2009 world championships next spring in Switzerland.
Yzerman told Hockey Night in Canada it's imperative to find the right mix at the management, coaching and player levels.
"People that gel together, people that work together, people that are willing to sacrifice, take on a different role and make adjustments," he said. "Egos have to be put aside."
Wayne Gretzky, executive director for the winning team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the club that disappointed four years later, will be an adviser to management.
He ruled himself out of the running for the head-coaching job, saying he needs to focus on his job as Phoenix Coyotes bench boss.
"There are a lot of great candidates out there," Gretzky told HNIC. "Stevie's going to find the right guys. I know they'll put together the right mix to bring back [the] gold medal to Canada. We've got a great bunch of Canadian players in the National Hockey League."
Yzerman said that while Canada has always been heralded for its passion and work ethic, the country also has a deep talent pool of skilled players.
"Multi-dimensional players will be on this team," said Yzerman. "Just like you build a Stanley Cup winner... [they] aren't necessarily all offence or all defence — we should be strong at both ends of the rink."
Yzerman added players will make the team first on their ability "and then we'll take the intangibles, such as leadership, experience, and make sure we have a balance.
"I believe a veteran presence is very important. The more times you've been through it, the more comfortable you are. But … just being through it, you still have to be able to contribute and compete at a high level.
"What we're going to do over the course of this season and early next year is just sit back, watch and evaluate the players," Yzerman said.
Holland will be joining the Olympic team, having previously worked with Hockey Canada at world championships.
Detroit has won three Stanley Cups since Holland took over as GM before the 1997-98 season. He has been with the organization since the early 1980s.
"The Red Wings pay [me], but I'm a Canadian, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the team and if I've gotta work longer days and longer hours, so be it — it's an opportunity of a lifetime for all of us," said Holland.
Lowe is now president of hockey operations for the Edmonton Oilers after eight years as the team's GM, and he brings continuity to Canada, having served in a management capacity for the previous two Games.
The management team was reluctant to mention any players by name, and Yzerman also said it was premature to assess how many holdovers from 2006 will be named to the Vancouver squad.
"We've got a full season ahead of us and October, November and probably most of December next year," said Yzerman. "A lot of things change, but since '06, you've had some young players come into the league, some young guys who were in the league [already] develop into top players, and some of the older players have continued to be strong.
"There'll be changes from that [Turin] team, just the evolution of time forces that, but to say to what degree today, I couldn't say … "
Yzerman said the brain trust also would likely see how the current season plays out before naming the successor to Pat Quinn, coach for the last two Games. Marc Crawford coached Canada in 1998.
Armstrong is the St. Louis Blues' assistant general manager and was GM for Dallas between 2001 and 2007.
Yzerman was born in Cranbrook, B.C., but grew up in Nepean, Ont.
As for Canada's competition in 2010, Gretzky believes "it'll be anyone's game" from a group that includes Russia, Sweden, Finland and the United States.
"The gold medal is going to be decided by one goal and is going to come down to the best goaltender and the best team that's going to win," said Gretzky.
With files from the Canadian Press