Canada turns to '02 Olympic management

Updated: November 4, 2003, 3:28 PM ET
By Jim Kelley | ESPN.com

TORONTO -- Wayne Gretzky helped lead Team Canada to its first gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Olympics without stepping on the ice. He's hoping to do the same at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Gretzky, co-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, was introduced as executive director of Canada's 2004 World Cup entrant on Tuesday. Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe will serve as assistant executive director and Vancouver Canucks vice president of player personnel Steve Tambellini will serve as director of player personnel. All three served in the same capacity with Canada's 2002 Olympic team.

Gretzky did not indicate if the 2002 Olympic team coaching staff -- which was led by Pat Quinn of the Toronto Maple Leafs and included Jacques Martin of the Ottawa Senators, Ken Hitchcock of the Philadelphia Flyers and Hockey Canada executive Wayne Fleming -- would coach in the World Cup and did not give a timetable for a decision.

"We haven't discussed the coaching staff or who the players might be. There's no decision on that," Gretzky said. "There are a lot of great coaches in our country and we'll address that in the next little while."

The event, which is a joint effort between the National Hockey League, the NHL Players Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation, will be held August 30-September 14, 2004 and consist of eight teams divided into two pools. The United States, Canada, Russia and Slovakia compose the North American pool. The Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Sweden compose the European pool.

Canada lost to the United States 5-3 in the gold medal game of the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996.

Initial tournament guidelines state that 18 of the 23 players must be named by Feb. 1. However, Gretzky, his staff, and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson are already lobbying for the latest date possible. Their preference is after the Stanley Cup finals are completed, which could be as late as June 7.

For the 2002 Olympics, teams were required to select a minimum of eight players to preliminary rosters in March, 2001 -- 11 months before the event. Final rosters of 23 players were submitted in late December. As a result, many players who weren't playing well were locked into roster spots, while players having productive seasons weren't included.

"We'd like it the later the better. Bob is in negotiation with everyone involved to make it happen," Gretzky said. "Playoffs are a factor. We have to give everyone an equal opportunity. A player can have a great playoff (and not be included on the roster) and then you'd have to wonder why you wouldn't want him on your team."

Each team will heave a 10-day training camp and play two exhibition games. Training camp details and exhibition game dates also have not been confirmed.

Gretzky and his management staff sought to re-establish Canada as the greatest hockey playing country in the world during the Olympics. They did that by winning the country's first gold medal in 50 years. They are taking the same approach to the 2004 World Cup.

"We're Canadians," Lowe said. "We do it because we like to win. We lost in '96, but we intend to win. We don't expect to win, but we intend to win."

Jim Kelley is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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