U.S. GM won't travel to Sochi

SOCHI, Russia -- David Poile earned a chance to be general manager of the U.S. hockey team after paying his dues as an NHL general manager for more than three decades and giving up a lot of his free time to help USA Hockey.

Since last summer, he spent countless hours trying to shape a roster that would give the Americans a shot to win Olympic gold for the first time since he witnessed what's known as the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980.

Poile, though, won't be at the Sochi Games to see the team he helped set up.

The Nashville Predators GM and former Washington Capitals executive was hit in the face by a deflected puck while standing in a tunnel behind the bench in Minnesota during the Predators' pregame skate last week, a freak accident that will force him to watch the U.S. go for gold on TV from his home in Tennessee.

"Serving as GM of the U.S. Olympic Team has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever grateful to USA Hockey," Poile said Monday in a statement from the Predators. "However, it is not possible for me to travel at this time, but I will remain in contact with Ray Shero, Brian Burke, Jim Johansson and our coaching staff during the games.

"Team USA is in great hands and I will be there in spirit. I wish all the best for our players, coaches and entire group as they begin play in the 2014 Olympics and go for the gold."

Ray Shero, who is general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, confirmed earlier Monday that he will take over as acting general manager in Sochi.

"From David's situation, difficult news for me having worked for David for eight years in Nashville and knowing, as I told the team today, how much passion, time and effort he has [spent] putting this team together," Shero said earlier Monday. "Disappointing for David and his family, and disappointing for us that he can't be here.

"But obviously [he is] still the general manager of this hockey team, and over the last few days, even when he was in Minnesota at the hospital and before he left, [I] was in touch with him just in terms of some of the roster and will continue to be."

Poile needed facial surgery. He has returned to Nashville but can't be cleared to travel to Russia in time for the 12-day Olympic tournament, which begins Wednesday.

"I first want to thank everyone who has reached out to me since suffering this injury," Poile said. "The outpouring of support and comfort has been overwhelming."

Poile led a selection committee that picked the Olympic team after months of work, and his role during the 12-day tournament would have been largely behind the scenes in a supporting role.

U.S. coach Dan Bylsma says he's bitterly disappointed for Poile, who has worked with USA Hockey for years.

"You know, the amount of work and the amount of effort by David starting back in July, even to hear that he had been hurt and to now know that he's not going to be coming over there is just a huge, huge disappointment," Bylsma told reporters after the Americans' first practice in Sochi on Monday evening. "Just knowing the work and knowing the time and effort he's put in -- but having said that, while he's not going to be joining us here, he's still going to be the GM of the team."

Poile won the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2001 for his contributions to hockey in the U.S. and is a three-time finalist for NHL GM of the year. He also has filled various roles with USA Hockey.

He was the associate GM for the U.S. at the Olympics four years ago, when he assisted Burke after he dealt with tragedy. Burke's 21-year-old son, Brendan, died Feb. 5, 2010, in a car accident, and he skipped the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games.

ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and The Associated Press contributed to this report.