PRAGUE – One of the luxuries Canada has as a global hockey power is depth at all positions, including coach.
And Hockey Canada had to tap into that talent pool at the World Hockey Championship on the eve of its tournament-opening game against Austria.
When Head Coach Joel Quenneville stepped aside with a sudden health issue, Mike Babcock and Tom Renney were able to step in and make a seamless transition.
Babcock was named Head Coach and Renney was named Associate Coach. Hockey Canada also added veteran international coach Mike Pelino to its staff for the 16-team tournament.
Quenneville was admitted to hospital Friday night suffering from exhaustion. was released Saturday night and is under a doctor’s case.
Quenneville arrived in the Czech capital on Wednesday after spending four days in Budapest along with players and staff to begin preparations for the 16-team tournament. By Friday, he was unable to fulfill his obligations.
“Tom is a real good person and we have had a good relationship for years,” said Babcock,” who won a World Junior Championship gold medal in 1997. “I am sure he will be able to step in and tell me what he thinks. There is no time for a honeymoon here. He has lots of experience.”
Canadian General Manager Jim Nill was completely caught off guard by Quenneville’s sudden illness.
“It kind of came out of nowhere but that’s life. Things happen. We’ll be getting him home as soon as possible so he can be looked after.”
Canada is the defending champion and while losing Quenneville is a blow, the damage is softened somewhat by the fact he left the team before the world championship was in full swing.
“If anything, it will serve as an inspiration,” Renney, who coached Canada at the ’95, ’ world tournament, said about the impact of Quenneville’s absence.
“The big thing here is that the tournament has not started yet,” said Babcock. “We’ll be ready by (Sunday).”