SUN Hockey Pool

MacT answers the bell

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET

Craig MacTavish always pushed his players to answer Canada's call. What made yesterday so perfect is that he was able to answer the call himself. As expected, Team Canada head coach Marc Habscheid selected his old Edmonton Oilers team-mate to join Tom Renney, ahead of 28 other NHL coaches, to be named an assistant coach in the greatest IIHF World Hockey Championships ever held.

"The Oilers have always been, fortunately or unfortunately, well represented,'' laughed MacTavish of his team not making it past the first round of the playoffs.

"The involvement of the Oilers has always been high,'' said MacTavish. "We've always believed our players should be in a habit of playing hockey in late April and May. Ryan Smyth has always been very strong when it comes to representing Canada. He's always answered the call.

"But I think it goes back to a lot of players. Wayne Gretzky never said no to Hockey Canada. He was a great example to our players.''

A VERY LARGE NUMBER

Habscheid wouldn't come up with a number in terms of how many NHL coaches he could have picked ahead of MacTavish. But he indicated it was a very large number.

"It was a humbling experience just knowing how many people wanted to be involved in this,'' said Team Canada's head coach for the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Austria.

Renney was an automatic.

An assistant on both the teams that have won back-to-back titles to set Canada up for the first three-in-a-row gold-medal run since 1950-51-52, the New York Rangers head coach previously had the same Hockey Canada national coach job which now belongs to Habscheid.

Renney coached the Canadian Olympic Team to a silver medal in the Lillehammer Olympics and was three times the head coach of the team at the world championships. This will be his fourth year as an assistant coach with the team.

After all that, how do you not allow him a shot at the World Hockey Championship of all World Hockey Championships?

"This is an exciting time, to say the least,'' said Renney.

"Any time you have a chance to represent your country is very special. I realize there are a lot of other coaches out there who could be doing this.''

When it comes to MacTavish, Habscheid had this idea in mind back in the fall when he took the Oilers head coach to the 2004 Loto Cup in Slovakia to help coach the European-based Canadian players in the tournament.

That test drive sealed the deal.

"The Loto Cup was great. That was really important with me. We had a chance to exchange ideas. I had a chance to run a bench with him. It was great in terms of seeing how our philosophies and personalities meshed,'' said Habscheid.

"Craig has won his whole career,'' he said of the coach who has a 149-111-47-16 record in four years here. "He's great technically. And he has a great relationship with players.''

BIG ADJUSTMENT FROM ATOM

MacTavish joked that it's obviously a big adjustment from coaching his kid's Atom team this year.

"I'm very very appreciative of this opportunity to work with Hockey Canada. I look forward to working with players of this quality. This championship is going to be far more competitive than they ever have been in the past. This will give me a great experience coaching players at the highest level.

"This will rank a very close second to World Cup and Olympic competition. There are an unprecedented number of players available. Hopefully it'll work again for gold for Canada again.''

MacTavish says he'll have to drop his routine with Ryan Smyth now.

"I always ridiculed Ryan when he came back with the gold medals that 'They give those things away over there.'

"Now I'm going over there first-hand to find out that's probably not the case.''


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