CALGARY, AB -- Marc Crawford of Belleville, ON, has been named head coach of Canada's Men's Olympic Hockey team for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Canadian Hockey announced Tuesday.
"Marc Crawford is one of the brightest young coaches in hockey and we're confident he and his staff will do an outstanding job in preparing Canada to compete for a gold medal at this historic Olympic hockey tournament," said Bob Clarke, general manager of Team Canada. "Canada hasn't won gold since the Edmonton Mercurys won the Olympic hockey tournament in 1952, so the management team understands how important this opportunity is for all of Canada."
For the first time in the history of the Winter Olympics the best athletes from all countries will be able to play, as the National Hockey League shuts down its regular season to permit its hockey players to compete for their respective national teams. The tournament runs from Feb. 13-22 in Nagano.
The coaching staff that Crawford will lead at the Olympics is the same group that led Canada to the gold medal at the 1997 World Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland in May. Andy Murray, a native of Souris, MA, and head coach of Canada's full-time national team will serve as associate coach to Crawford. The assistants will be Wayne Cashman, of Kingston, ON, and Mike Johnston, of Dartmouth, NS, who is general manager and associate coach of the full-time national team.
The coaching staff will be rounded out by Rob Cookson, of Lacombe, AB, Canadian Hockey's manager, video services. Cookson has served as a video coach on Canada's three 1997 World Championship gold medal-winning teams -- the National Junior, Women's and Men's teams.
"Being asked to represent your country as a head coach of the Olympic hockey team is an extraordinary opportunity," said Crawford, a 36-year-old native of Belleville, ON, who served as an assistant coach on Team Canada at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in September 1996. "I'm excited about the challenge of competing for gold in what willl be the most exciting, competitive hockey tournament ever held."
Crawford, then 35, coached the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory in 1996, becoming the third youngest coach since 1924 to lead an NHL team to the championship. In 1995, Crawford won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL Coach of the Year, becoming the youngest coach to win that award since it was introduced in 1974.
Cashman played 18 seasons for the Boston Bruins, helping them win Stanley Cups in 19. He and Clarke, a native of Flin Flon, MA, were members of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. As a coach, Cashman has worked as an NHL assistant coach for the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks. He was named head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in early July.
The Team Canada management team, put in place last February by Bob Nicholson, Canadian Hockey's senior vice-president, hockey operations, includes assistant general managers Bob Gainey of Peterborough, ON, and Pierre Gauthier, a native of Montreal. Both Gainey and Gauthier served in similar roles for the 1997 World Championship team.
"We think the management team and coaching staff is a remarkable blend of the experience, championship tradition, technical acumen and people-managing qualities that will have to come together for us to compete successfully at the Olympics," said Nicholson. "There is also some good continuity with this group, since Crawford worked with our program at the World Cup and the rest of the coaching staff worked extremely well together in winning the gold medal at the World Hockey Championship."
In addition to the gold medal at the 1997 World Hockey Championship, both Murray and Johnston helped Canada win a silver medal at the 1996 World Hockey Championship in Vienna. Pierre Gauthier was general manager of that team. Johnston also was an assistant coach on the bronze medal-winning 1995 World Hockey Championship team and served in a similar role on gold medal-winning Canadian teams at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 19.
Murray's extensive international experience includes being a member of the coaching staffs of five Canadian teams that won the Spengler Cup tournament. He worked with Crawford as an assistant coach on Team Canada during the World Cup of Hockey. Murray, who coached for seven years in Switzerland, will play a key planning role in preparing Team Canada for Olympic competition.
The team itself -- 20 skaters and three goalies -- will be announced by Dec.. As for the tournament, eight teams will participate in a two-division, round-robin preliminary round, with the winner of each division advancing to the Final Round. Canada and five other countries, including the United States, have already qualified for the Final Round, also an eight-team, two-division round robin format. That will be followed by a quarter-final crossover, semifinals and the gold-medal final game on Feb.. Canada opens the tournament on Feb 13 against a qualifier from the preliminary round.
The theme of Canadian continuity extends to the Team Canada support staff, which includes Phil Legault as a media relations assistant. Legault was media relations coordinator with the silver medal-winning Canadian team at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. He also served in that role on the 1996 World Hockey Championship team, as well.