Schuler returns to Olympics as Canada’s coach

CALGARY — Laura Schuler just bought a house in New Hampshire. She won’t be living in it much this year.

Schuler will relocate to Calgary in July and begin preparing for what she and the country hope will be a fifth straight Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Hockey Canada named the 46-year-old from Toronto head coach of the Olympic team Wednesday.

“The journey is going to be incredible and it’s also going to be incredibly hard,” Schuler told The Canadian Press.

The 28 players invited to try out for the team will be announced Thursday. Those who aren’t based in Calgary will move there Aug. 1 to start training for the Winter Games in February.

Schuler is the first former player to serve as Canada’s head coach.

She was a tenacious, abrasive forward with a hard shot in 1998 when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut. Schuler and her teammates won silver in Nagano, Japan.

“You see in the NHL all the time where former players become coaches,” Schuler said. “It speaks to where we are in terms of our development in female hockey in Canada and I think that’s tremendous.”

Dwayne Gylywoychuk of Winnipeg and Troy Ryan of Springfield, N.S., join Schuler as assistant coaches. Calgary’s Brad Kirkwood is the goaltending coach.

Schuler is 12-8 behind Canada’s bench in world championships, Four Nations Cups and a two-game exhibition series with the United States over the last two seasons.

The Canadians lost 3-2 and 1-0 in overtime to the Americans in the 2017 and 2016 world championship finals respectively.

Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of national women’s team programs, chose Schuler and her assistants in consultation with president and chief executive officer Tom Renney and chief operating officer Scott Smith.

“Anything and everything that can help this team be successful she will use, explore, implement,” Davidson said of Schuler. “I know there will be no stone left unturned. That’s just what former players bring.

“She knows and understands the game. She knows how she wants to operate and how she wants to play. She knows what she wants the identity of her team to be. I’m excited to see how she’s going to take that and run with it.

“This staff has incredible chemistry and that will allow our coaches to perform to a standard of excellence that we expect.”

The Canadian women didn’t finish with the head coach they started with in 2013-14.

Dan Church left the team just eight weeks out from the 2014 Winter Games citing Hockey Canada’s lack of confidence in him.

He was quickly replaced by then-unemployed NHL coach Kevin Dineen, who is now an assistant with the Chicago Blackawks.

Trailing the Americans 2-0 with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Canadian women pulled out an overtime win to preserve the run of gold.

“We want to make sure we have stability and we have consistency throughout this year,” said Davidson, who coached Canada to gold in 2006 and 2010.

“Certainly we took a look at past situations, myself, Danielle (Sauvageau) in 2002, Shannon (Miller) in ‘98 and what happened in 2014. We looked at all those things and talked about what made them successful or why we had gaps.”

Schuler won world championships with the Canadian women in 1990, 1992 and 1997 and compiled 12 goals and 19 assists in 65 career games.

She’s one of just four players to score four goals in one game, in 1990 against Germany.

The Northeastern University alumnus coached her alma mater from 2004 and 2008 before becoming Miller’s assistant at the University of Minnesota-Duluth for seven years.

Schuler is taking a leave of absence from coaching the Dartmouth Big Green women after one season there to oversee the Olympic team.

Schuler and wife Jessica Flink bought their house near Dartmouth just a few weeks ago. Flink will remain there with their two dogs while Schuler shepherds the Canadian women towards Pyeongchang.

“I wouldn’t be able to do something like this without her support,” Schuler said. “She’s been tremendous through this entire journey and always been that person by my side.”

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