CALGARY, Alberta -- Wayne Gretzky will not run the Canadian
team at hockey's World Championship in Austria next month because
his mother is being treated for lung cancer.
The hockey great said in a statement Monday he was disappointed
he could not be with the team, citing the "personal situation
surrounding my mother's illness."
"I would not be able to put in the 100 percent that is needed
for Hockey Canada," he added.
Vancouver Canucks assistant general manager GM Steve Tambellini
will be Canada's general manager, with Detroit Red Wings GM Ken
Holland his assistant. Canada will try to successfully defend its
title at the April 30-May 15 tournament in Innsbruck and Vienna.
Gretzky said that while he will not be with the team, "I am
available to provide my opinion at any time, if needed."
National team coach Marc Habscheid will be behind the bench,
ending speculation that Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn will
resume his role from the Olympics and World Cup.
"Marc Habscheid is the right coach to lead Team Canada in
Austria, and deserves to be named today," Gretzky said. "He has
done a tremendous job through this season, he has a great knowledge
of the international game and has shown over the past few years his
talent of developing young players and winning."
Gretzky mulled Hockey Canada's offer for more than a month. He
decided he could not commit more than four weeks to the tournament
while his mother, Phyllis, is undergoing treatment in Brantford,
Tambellini was part of Gretzky's staff for the 2002 Salt Lake
City Olympics and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He was also at the
helm in 2003 when Canada ended a seven-year gold medal drought at
the World Championship in Finland.
This year's worlds have assumed greater importance because of
the lockout wiping out the NHL season. Elite hockey countries hope
to field a who's who of NHL stars although some big names -- Markus
Naslund, Mats Sundin and Mario Lemieux -- already have said they
Still, the likes of Martin Brodeur, Dany Heatley, Vincent
Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Robyn Regehr and Shane Doan are among
the World Cup returnees expected to suit up for Canada.
Many of Canada's players from the World Cup team have not played
this year. Hockey Canada has tentatively planned a training camp
for Calgary beginning in mid-April. Two European exhibition games
have been scheduled -- April 25 in Riga, Latvia, and April 28 in
Prague, Czech Republic.