CALGARY, Alta. – Dan Church (Toronto, Ont.) has a chance to finish the job.
After coaching Canada’s National Women’s Team in two international hockey tournaments this season, Hockey Canada gave Church the nod Friday for the upcoming 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Burlington, Vt.
Canada may be the reigning Olympic champion, but the women have lost to the U.S. in the final of the last three world championships going back to 2008.
“For our players and the coaches and the staff and Hockey Canada, it's been too long,” Church said from Toronto, Ont.
The Americans will host the 2012 world championship April 7-14 in Vermont. Ottawa, Ont., is the host city for 2013.
“We have a lot to prove, I think, this time around leading into Ottawa next year, and into the Olympics,” Church said.
Church is also the head coach of York University’s women's team. He was behind Canada's bench for the 2011 4 Nations Cup last November and also at the inaugural 2011 IIHF 12 Nations Invitational Tournament last August and September.
Canada lost 4-3 in a shootout to the U.S. in the 4 Nations final in Sweden. The Canadians finished third and went 4-2 at the 12 Nations Invitational Tournament in Finland, losing to the U.S. and Sweden.
While Hockey Canada named younger players to those teams to get them international experience, Church will have the country's best at his disposal for this year’s world championship.
He'll choose his 23-player roster from a selection camp March 26-April 1 in Ottawa. The camp roster is expected to be announced in early March.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to coach all those athletes,” Church said. “One of our things this year is to really improve our defensive play. That's been one of my goals as a coach all the way along – to play a strong defensive game that complements our skilled players and their offensive game.
“It's about playing our best when our best is needed.”
Church was an assistant coach to Ryan Walter at last year's world championship in Switzerland, where Canada lost in overtime to the U.S. in the final.
Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of all 13 women's world championships. Canada opens the world championship April 7 versus the defending champions at the University of Vermont.
Hockey Canada reserved the right to name a different coach for the world championship after the 4 Nations and 12 Nations events earlier this season.
The country's hockey governing body opted to stay with Church, indicating he is a candidate to coach the Canadian women at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The Canadian women will centralize in Calgary in the summer of 2013 to begin preparing for Sochi.
Hockey Canada's director of female hockey says with the Olympics on the horizon, the decision on Canada's coach for this year's world championship required careful consideration.
“Were we going to go with someone else? Not necessarily, but there was a lot of discussion,” Kalli Quinn said. “We're not only thinking about women's worlds, but we're also looking down the road. We wanted to make sure we are making the right decision there as we move forward.”
“Dan never really had a full group to work with from a players standpoint. He's the right man for the job right now, and let's give him that opportunity to succeed and show us what he can really do with a full roster.”
For his part, Church wants to be considered for the job of Olympic team coach. Daniele Sauvageau coached Canada to gold in 2002 and Melody Davidson to back-to-back titles in 20.
“Quite candidly, it's been a goal of mine to put myself in that conversation,” Church said. “I really feel like I've done everything in my power in terms of my coaching education and the work I'm doing at York University to become a better coach and with Hockey Canada.
“I hope I'm in that conversation.”
Danielle Goyette (St. Nazaire, Que.), a former national team player now coaching the University of Calgary, and Doug Derraugh (Arnprior, Ont.) from Cornell University, will again be Church's assistants after serving in the same capacity at the 4Nations and 12 Nations tournaments.
“I was really impressed with the communication between the three of us,” Goyette said. “No ego there. We want to do what's best for the program and make sure the players are successful.
“We know we can be better and we have to demand more from the players and from us, too. Dan was a good leader. He makes you feel comfortable, he gives you responsibility, he's going to be there to support you.”
Church, 38, is in his eighth season coaching the York women, who are currently playing in the OUA playoffs. He coached Canada to gold at the 2010 World Women’s Under-18 Championship in Chicago, Ill.
There are new developments in international women's hockey this year. Countries can now name 23 players to their rosters, up from 21 and now the same as the men's world championship.
“It allows us to take a few more position players and have a little bit more depth in our line-up, which is good if there is an injury,'' Church said. “It allows you to have a seamless transition, with four lines and six defencemen, without interrupting the flow.”
Also, the International Ice Hockey Federation altered the format of the world championship and intends to use the same schedule for Sochi.
The top four seeded teams are in one pool and teams seeded fifth to eighth are in another. The top six advance to the playoff round, while the bottom two play a best-of-three relegation series. Canada will play the U.S., Finland and Russia in the preliminary round.
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