Every Friday I answer mail in my weekly "Ask The Hockey History Blogger" segment.
Several people have asked me this question this week: Will Wayne Gretzky coach Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics?
Without a management team firmly in place yet, the answer truly is that it is way too early to speculate about the coaching staff.
That being said, Gretzky as head coach makes perfect sense to me.
Here's the reason. When Wayne Gretzky was manager of the 2002 and 2006 teams, he selected a coach that players would go through a wall for - Pat Quinn. Quinn has a legendary following of former pupils, and is one of the most respected coaches ever. Gretzky and the rest of the Team Canada brass made sure the rah-rah Quinn was surrounded by tactical coaches like Ken Hitchcock, Wayne Fleming and Jacques Martin.
It was a great set up. The associate coaches would prep the team with their x's and o's, and the head guy would come in with the 'win one for the gipper' speech. In 2002 it worked beautifully. In 2006 it didn't so much.
In a short tournament like the Olympics where the players literally get together for only a couple of weeks, you need that level of respect at the top. There's a lot of good candidates to coach Team Canada 2010, with Hitchcock and Mike Babcock leading the way. But Gretzky is the guy who could inspire the players like no other. Gretzky is the guy who could, if need be, intimidate the players like no other. Gretzky is the guy who could take the heat off the players and just allow them to concentrate on their assigned tasks.
So will Wayne Gretzky coach Team Canada? I don't know, but if surrounded by good coaches, I see no reason why he would not be an excellent choice as Canada's Olympic head coach in 2010.
I think Mike Babcock is the other leading candidate, especially if he can successfully defend Detroit's Stanley Cup championship in 2009.
Aside from being a winner and a top coach in the world, Babcock has the right connections. With Gretzky out of the management picture, Team Canada will likely look to the Detroit Red Wings organization to lead the Olympic team. In past world championship events Team Canada has gone after Wings brass like Steve Yzerman, Jim Nill and Ken Holland. It is likely or maybe all three of these guys will be given the job of managing Team Canada 2010.
Do you want to Ask The Hockey History Blogger a question about hockey? Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org