TORONTO -Andy Murray and Mike Johnston have been named to Canada's full-time national men's hockey team coaching staff today, taking them through the squad's 50-game season schedule, the annual World Championships, and the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano
Canadian Hockey also announced today that Dave Easter of Chatham, Ont., and Craig Butz of Swift Current, Sask., were selected to lead Canada's entry in the first International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World In-line Hockey Championship from August 4-10, 1996, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"We are once again fortunate to have two outstanding coaching staffs to lead Canada in international competition," said Frank Lento, Canadian Hockey chairman from Fernie, B.C. "Our development system for players and coaches alike puts Canadian Hockey in the envious position of selecting the best people available for any given position or slot in the line-up. We are looking forward to a great 1996 World In-line championship and 1996-97 national team season."
Lento added that he is looking forward to a continued strong national team program under the leadership of Andy Murray and Mike Johnston. "Both Andy and Mike bring with them everything we are looking for in our national team coaching staff," noted Lento. "They have the technical skills, networking system and appreciation of the grassroots to make their presence felt and have an impact on the game as they share their knowledge with both players and coaches at all levels."
Bob Nicholson, Canadian Hockey's senior vice-president of hockey operations, saw an opportunity of reinforcing Canada's national team program with the selection of Murray and Johnston. "Time and time again Canadian Hockey has shown its expertise in player and coach development, and short-term international competition," said Nicholson. "By placing our coaches on the staffs for major international competitions, we are only enhancing Team Canada's chances for success."
Nicholson was also enthusiastic in the change of direction of responsibilities for Murray and Johnston. "Before the hiring process began, we took a look at the strength of the national team program and how we could best serve coaches, players and teams that loan players for development," added Nicholson. "From that point, we looked for the best two people to fill those positions and came up with Andy (Murray) and Mike (Johnston)."
Murray, the former Winnipeg Jets assistant coach, will take on the head coaching role. In addition to the national team's domestic and international schedule of over 50 games, he will lead Team Canada to the 1997 World Championship in Finland and be part of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games coaching staff in Nagano, Japan. Murray will also be involved in this summer's World Cup of Hockey.
Murray was an assistant coach with the Canadian team that won a silver medal under Tom Renney at the world championship earlier this year in Vienna. The native of Brandon, Man., has also won five Spengler Cup titles with Team Canada, including the last one in December 1995.
Murray replaces Tom Renney, who coached from 1992 to May 1996 and has since moved on to the Vancouver Canucks. Dave King was Canada's national team head coach from 19.
Johnston, who joined the national team program prior to the 1994-95 season, will serve as the general manager/associate coach. In this position, he will have the leading role in player recruitment and scheduling. Johnston will also serve as an assistant coach at the 1997 World Championship and 1998 Nagano Olympics.
Johnston, from Dartmouth, N.S., has been with the national team program since 1994. He was an assistant coach to Tom Renney at the 19 World Championships, winning bronze and silver medals respectively. The former University of New Brunswick head coach also won two world gold medals with the national junior team in 19.
On Canada's national in-line team coaching staff, Nicholson looked forward to a strong showing at the championship in August. "Dave (Easter) and Craig (Butz) bring with them all the required skills to lead the Canadian squad," said Nicholson. "They have a good technical background, knowledge of the in-line game. But just as importantly, they have an excellent network of contacts within the in-line hockey world and a knowledge of the players with the skill and interest in representing Canada at the World Championship."
Canada's in-line team head coach, Dave Easter, comes to Canadian Hockey's newest national team with ample experience in the sport. Easter coached, recruited and evaluated the silver medal winning Canadian team at a World In-line tournament in July 1995 and the World Under-18 Cup in March 1995. The 35 year-olds' ice hockey experience has seen him coach AAA midget and junior B hockey in Chatham.
Craig Butz was named assistant coach to Canada's in-line team. This past season, Butz, 31, was head coach of the Las Vegas Jr. Thunder of the Western States Junior Hockey League, assistant coach and player of the Franklin Labeda Vikings, and consulting coach of the Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League working hand-in-hand there with head coach Chris McSorley of Roller Hockey International (RHI) fame.
The 1996 World In-line Hockey Championship features 12 teams in three groups. As it stands now, Canada is in Group 2 with Finland, Germany and Japan. Group 1 is made up of the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy and Australia, while Group 3 has the United States, Russia, France and Switzerland.