Hitchcock brings lessons from '06

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Ken Hitchcock figures it's about time he's earned his own room.

The veteran of Team Canada's last two forays into the Olympics' five-ring circus roomed with fellow coach Jacques Martin for the gold-medal-winning effort in Salt Lake in 2002 and with Wayne Fleming in the ill-fated trip to Turin, Italy, four years ago.

Former coach Pat Quinn always got his own room because, well, he tended to make the environment uncomfortable for a roommate from a smell standpoint, said Hitchcock.

Hitchcock, the only coaching holdover from the 2006 Games, wasn't sure if he wanted to do all of this again. Two times of "been, there, done that," and he was ready to let somebody else take over.

But after a good season helping the Blue Jackets to their first playoff berth, he's re-energized and accepted the Team Canada call again.

Hitchcock is the "big-picture" guy on the staff, dealing with game preparation, review and in-game adjustments.

He is also the chief baggage handler.

The 57-year-old brings experiences -- both good and bad -- from Salt Lake and Turin, where Canada failed to win a medal.

Hitchcock has a couple of ideas on what went wrong four years ago.

First off, Hitchcock felt the 2006 team, with a different cast of players, wasn't able to deal with the pressure of being defending champions and following up Canada's first Olympic gold in men's hockey in 50 years.

"The pressure for a lot of players, defending a medal they had never won, was great," he said. "There was unbelievable pressure on players who had no experience dealing with it because they were defending a medal that they knew nothing about except watching it on TV. All of a sudden they walked into this thing with a ton of stress and a ton of pressure and they weren't mentally ready for it."

At least dealing with the pressure of defending gold won't be an issue in 2010.

The other factor Hitchcock said Team Canada should revisit is the issue of injured players.

"A lot of guys were really banged up getting on that airplane (to Turin). We were like, 'oh my God.' It was tough," said Hitchcock. "We lost three or four who couldn't play and we had three or four who were banged up big-time. They tried to get through it, but it was a hard go."

Preparation will be the mantra for this coaching staff. The advantages Canadians used to take for granted -- channelled emotion, passion and the willingness to play a physical style -- are no longer exclusive qualities.

"In the Russians we saw a team that matched our passion and, at times, bettered it (in the 2-0 quarter-final loss). The first time we saw that, it was like a shock," said Hitchcock.

There will not be, Hitchcock said, any surprises this time around.


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