Women’s team coach quits
CALGARY—That the decision was painful was evident, as Dan Church was in tears by the end of the conversation.
His stated reason for abruptly resigning as head coach of Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team was he felt there were doubts about his ability to coach the team to Olympic gold in February.
“I’m heart-broken, to be honest, about the whole situation,” he added.
“I’m sad I can’t finish this journey.”
Church didn’t specify whether it was players or Hockey Canada who doubted his competence as a coach.
“Just discussions I’d had over the last few days made that apparent, in some meetings I’d had with leadership,” Church noted.
“I think it was just difference of opinion on the direction we were headed.
“In the end, I just decided if I’m getting in the way of where the team needs to go, I need to step aside and let them continue on in the process,” he reasoned.
That bombshell comes less than two months before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Church was expected to announce his 21-player Olympic roster before the end of December.
Church left Calgary yesterday morning without addressing the players and flew to Toronto, where he lives with his wife, Regan.
Canada lost 5-1 to the U.S. women in Calgary last night.
“I was in shock. It was unexpected,” said veteran forward Caroline Ouellette.
“I appreciate Dan. I always have,” she added. “I have a lot of respect for him.
“I think he’s done a lot of great things for our team since 2011 when he took over as head coach.”
The Canadian women will try to win a fourth-straight gold medal in Sochi after victories in 2002, 2006, and 2010.
Church coached Canada to a women’s world title in April, 2012. The 40-year-old from Toronto was rewarded with a two-year contract to coach for the 2013 world champions and the Winter Olympics.
When asked if Hockey Canada tried to convince him to stay or reverse his decision yesterday, Church replied, “No, they did not.”
“Dan has decided to resign for personal reasons,” Hockey Canada’s chief operating officer Scott Smith said at news conference yesterday.
“He’s put a tremendous amount of work into this and we respect the decision he’s made.”
Assistant coaches Danielle Goyette, a former national team player, and Lisa Haley will co-coach until a new coach is named, Smith added.
“Time certainly is of the essence,” Smith conceded. “This decision came upon us in the last few hours and we’re going to react as quickly as possible.
Melody Davidson coached the Canadian women to Olympic gold in both 2006 and 2010. She became Hockey Canada’s female head scout and serves in a general manager’s role for the national team.
Davidson was adamant yesterday she would not step behind the breach.
“I stepped down in 2010 for a reason,” Davidson stressed. “I left because it was time to be off that bench and I’m comfortable in the role I can play off the ice.”
“I think there’s some real good candidates there who can help us and bring a different voice than mine,” she added.
“I’ll definitely support whatever direction we go in, but it’s not going to involve me as part of the coaching staff.”
The reality is the pool of Canadians who have experience coaching international women’s teams is shallow.
Davidson said she could identify with Church’s feelings as she nearly quit when Canada lost the 2009 world championship final to the U.S. prior to the 2010 Olympics.
“The Olympics is overwhelming at times,” she remarked. “Sometimes you get caught up in that.
“Maybe Dan couldn’t feel he could envision something different.”
But Davidson didn’t think Church was in over his head as head coach of the team.
“Definitely not,” she stressed.