Vigneault takes the wheel for Canada at men’s world hockey championship

Alain Vigneault is back coaching in a big way after a winter of unemployment.

Vigneault is not only Canada’s head coach at the men’s world hockey championship starting Friday in Slovakia, but he’s also the newest coach of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

Those two appointments were announced in a span of five days last month.

The 57-year-old from Quebec City is about to make his world championship coaching debut.

“It was definitely on my bucket list,” Vigneault told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Vienna on Wednesday.

“I hadn’t had the opportunity to represent my country since 1991 at the world junior championships in Saskatoon.”

He was an assistant coach to Dick Todd that year when Canada won the gold medal.

Vigneault’s teams have made the playoffs in 11 of his 15 years as an NHL head coach.

He’s been nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy that goes to the league’s top coach four times. Vigneault won it in 2007 with the Vancouver Canucks

Vigneault was fired by the New York Rangers just over a year ago when the Rangers missed the post-season for the first time in his five seasons there.

Canadian team and Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said he wanted Vigneault behind Canada’s bench even with the potential wrinkle of NHL teams pursuing him at the same time.

“That’s what makes it so great he made a commitment to Hockey Canada,” Botterill said.

“What Alain has accomplished in the National Hockey League, it could have been easy for him to say ‘you know what? I don’t need to take on the challenge of the world championship.’ But he was willing to accept it.”

Two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins will be Canada’s starting goaltender against Finland in Kosice on Friday.

Canada, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, is in Group A alongside United States (4), Finland (5), Germany (8), Slovakia (10), Denmark (12), France (13), Britain (22).

Defending champion Sweden (2), Russia (3), Czech Republic (6), Switzerland (7), Norway (9), Latvia (11), Austria (17) and Italy (19) comprise Group B.

Canada concludes the preliminary round May 21 against the U.S. The top four teams in each group advance to quarterfinals. The final is May 26.

Canada has earned 26 gold medals over the 82-year history of the tournament, and most recently back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.

A semifinal loss to Switzerland followed by another loss to the U.S. in the bronze-medal game sent Canada home from Denmark without a medal last year.

The Canadian team heads to Slovakia on Thursday following a Vienna training camp that included a 7-5 exhibition win over host Austria.

The 23-player roster includes Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares, Flyers forward Sean Couturier and a trio of Vegas Golden Knights — forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone and defenceman Shea Theodore.

Vancouver’s Troy Stecher and Buffalo’s Brandon Montour are Canada’s oldest defencemen at age 25, yet both will make their world championship debut.

The average age of Canada’s blue line is 23.

“We’ve got a young, mobile defence that can compete against a hard forechecking team, can make those good first passes and support the attack,” Vigneault said.

“Up front, we’ve got some good depth and guys who can put the puck in the net. The key is you’ve got to get better every day in this tournament.

“We’re here to win gold for Canada.”

The world championship starting a week later than usual helped Botterill get a ‘yes’ when he extended invitations to players.

The Golden Knights, who lost to San Jose in seven games in the first round of playoffs, were an example of that.

“There’s obviously the disappointment of getting knocked out of the playoffs and the physical toll that it takes on them,” Botterill explained.

“I think the fact they had a couple days to recover from that before having to make a commitment, I think helped us.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation altered overtime and shootout procedures for this year’s championship.

The gold-medal game will not go to a shootout if tied after overtime. The finalists will play 20-minute, sudden-death overtime periods until the winning goal is scored.

Overtime will feature three skaters per side throughout the tournament. Previously, playoff games featured four-on-four in overtime and five aside in the gold-medal game.

Just Posted

Trudeau’s cabinet choices have domino effect on House of Commons work

OTTAWA — As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau settles on his choices for… Continue reading

Protesters say Alberta bill would make it harder to access some medical services

EDMONTON — Opponents of a private member’s bill that calls for more… Continue reading

Freeland’s imprint of foreign affairs remains even if she’s shuffled: analysts

OTTAWA — Whether or not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffles her to… Continue reading

Saskatchewan government considers funding first supervised consumption site

SASKATOON — Saskatchewan’s health minister says the government will consider whether to… Continue reading

Thousands fill City Hall Park for Red Deer Lights the Night

With the flip of a switch, downtown Red Deer was filled with… Continue reading

Central Albertans help families during holidays with Christmas Wish Breakfast

It takes a community to help a community. And Sunday morning at… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Nov. 19 The Mountview Sunnybrook Community Association will hold its AGM at… Continue reading

‘Ford v Ferrari’ speeds to No. 1; ‘Charlie’s Angels’ fizzles

NEW YORK — “Ford v Ferrari” put its competition in the rearview,… Continue reading

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

WINNIPEG — A terminally ill cancer patient who recorded a video from… Continue reading

Five things to watch for when Trudeau shuffles his cabinet this week

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to unveil his new… Continue reading

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

VANCOUVER — A framed iconic photo in Dr. Brian Day’s office shows… Continue reading

Rowing Canada, university investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

VANCOUVER — Lily Copeland felt she had found her purpose in life… Continue reading

MacKinnon scores OT winner, Avs recover from blowing late lead to beat Canucks

VANCOUVER — Nathan MacKinnon scored his second goal of the game 27… Continue reading

White House urgently ramps up push for drug cost legislation

WASHINGTON — The White House is ramping up its push to get… Continue reading

Most Read