BOCA RATON, Fla. — Rob Blake is the next former star player who will get a chance to hone his management skills with Hockey Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
The recently retired defenceman is expected to serve as an assistant to GM Dave Nonis at the tournament, according to sources requesting anonymity. Hockey Canada has called a Thursday press conference in Toronto where a third member of the management team could also be unveiled.
Blake ended a 20-year NHL career after last season and recently joined the league’s front office to work in the hockey operations department. After the league’s GM meetings wrapped up Wednesday, he acknowledged having discussions with Hockey Canada about next month’s world championship.
“We’re going to finalize that in the next couple days, but I think the opportunity to kind of grow my development after playing hockey (is important),” said Blake. “This is a great step here. To come and to listen and be around the general managers and around the hockey operations and things.
“That can also involve Team Canada.”
Nonis currently works as the assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll be responsible for assembling a team to avenge a disappointing seventh-place finish at last year’s tournament in Germany — the lowest for Canada since it was eighth in 1992.
Overall, the country has been successful at the event with six appearances in the final in the last eight tournaments.
Former NHLers have been a big part of the Hockey Canada program with Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Luc Robitaille and Mark Messier all serving in management roles the last few years.
Blake is a former Norris Trophy winner who also had a lot of international experience during his playing career. The 41-year-old is one of only 24 hockey players to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and world championship gold.
His current role with the NHL has him working on a number of different assignments, including a new committee with Yzerman, Nieuwendyk and Brendan Shanahan charged with leading the way on the current concussion issue.
“It’s been good,” said Blake. “As far as playing, I knew I was done.
“I think this transition allows me to learn about hockey in a different way.”
The Canadian world championship team will consist of NHL players who don’t participate in the playoffs or whose teams are eliminated in the first round. A training camp and exhibition games are scheduled for Paris and Prague before Canada opens the tournament against Belarus on April 29 in Kosice, Slovakia.