Gretzky's gone, who's leading Canada?

Bruce Garrioch, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

The changing of the guard for Team Canada will be made official tomorrow at a press conference in Ottawa.

While sources told Sun Media Detroit Red Wings VP Steve Yzerman will be confirmed as the executive director for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said he'll be stepping aside.

After leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and a disappointing finish in 2006 in Torino, Italy, Gretzky has decided the time has come for somebody else to take over.

”I don’t think it’s any secret that (Yzerman) is obviously going to take over the team,” said Gretzky following the Coyotes one-hour skate at Scotiabank Place. “It’s (Yzerman’s) team. As I told him, “I’m a shoulder to lean on and I’ve been through a couple of them.”

“I told him, ‘If you want some advice, I¹ll give you some advice.’ But it’s his team and I’m always somehow and some way going to be connected with Team Canada because I’ve been around so much and so often. But quite frankly, I’ll have a minimal role. It’s really Stevie’s team.”

Once Yzerman is introduced, the work will begin toward building a team.

Sources say Canada has a list of nine candidates- including Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau, Boston’s Claude Julien, Edmonton’s Craig MacTavish, Detroit’s Mike Babcock and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault- for the coaching job.

There has been talk Gretzky could be behind the bench, but he says he’s not going to be on the list of candidates and doesn’t sound like he wants to be. Gretzky said the timing is right for Team Canada to move forward without him.

“Whatever they ask of me, I'll be available,” said Gretzky. “It’s Stevie’s team. It’s going to be his staff. It’s going to be his coaches and his players. This is definitely handing the reins over. This is not my team.”

In discussions with Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and Yzerman, Gretzky felt it was important to back away. Yzerman has been the executive director for Canada at the last two world championships.

“That’s the way it should. Stevie is qualified and he’ll do a great job. I did it twice and I got my opportunity and I really believe, and (Nicholson) and I have talked about this for months, that Stevie will do a great job,” said Gretzky. “For me to be involved, in a sense, there would be this mystique that maybe it¹s not Stevie¹s team.

“The less I am involved and the more that I am not around, the more people will realize that, yes, this is Stevie’s team.

On the other side of it, I¹ve been through it with two of them and there’s going to be a lot of pressure and a lot at stake. I'll be there for any kind of questions that he may have. If he calls me great. If he doesn’t, ‘Good luck.’ I’ve chatted with him a few times in the last couple of weeks, but it’s going to be his decisions as to what he does."


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