Gretz OK for Canada

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Wayne Gretzky is on again.

After first indications were no, yesterday the National Hockey League decided it's OK to go.

The NHL decided not to infuriate fans any further by refusing to allow Gretzky a chance to head up the Team Canada management team to the IIHF Hockey Championships in Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria.

A statement was issued from NHL VP Bill Daly at the league offices yesterday.

"After due consideration to all of the relevant and sometimes competing concerns, we have decided that NHL management personnel (including NHL head coaches and assistant coaches) will be entirely free to participate in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in the same manner and in the same or similar capacities as in prior years (subject to individual club consent) regardless of whether the NHL lockout of players remains in effect.''

After Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were left with egg on their faces after being sucked into a no-win situation in the false-alarm attempt to un-cancel the cancelled NHL season, the league decided not to take them away from hockey in this situation.

The day before it had been reported that the NHL would not allow league owners, GMs or coaches to participate.

Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, who has been Gretzky's right-hand man in winning gold at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games and gold in the September World Cup of Hockey series, loosely confirmed it in an interview with the Edmonton Sun Monday night.

"Gretz mentioned something along those lines,'' admitted Lowe of the league not allowing them to accept Olympic or World Cup of Hockey Team Canada management duties.

"I've heard that,'' Lowe added of the report.

Lowe would not confirm yesterday that he and Gretzky will now be in Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria, in May for the event which, from all indications looks to be a World Cup of Hockey do-over on the big ice. He said both he and Gretzky will have nothing to say on the subject before talking to Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson,who is currently in Switzerland in IIHF meetings.

Nicholson, in a one-on-one interview with the Sun last week in Calgary, said he was definitely going after Gretzky.

"Yeah, we're going to Wayne. Why wouldn't you? Everything he's touched for us has turned to gold,'' said Nicholson of the Olympic and World Cup gold medals.

"I've talked to Wayne and I'll be talking to him again. Hopefully, he'll take it on.

"I hope to be able to announce our management team in the next seven to 10 days.''

An announcement is expected when Nicholson returns, likely either Friday or Monday.


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