Quinn left out

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Pat Quinn says he's not bothered to be watching Team Canada from his couch instead of coaching at next month's world championship.

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson made it official yesterday, that new Team Canada general manager Steve Tambellini endorsed Wayne Gretzky's decision to make Marc Habscheid coach.

Quinn had led Canada to the 2002 Olympic gold medal and 2004 World Cup, but Nicholson said the Maple Leafs coach was told in the autumn that Habscheid was the front-runner.

The National Hockey League lockout factored in the call, with Habscheid working all year with Hockey Canada and a Team Canada model while the pros were mothballed.

"They had told me that just as they wanted NHL players who were prepared, they needed a coach who was ready," Quinn said yesterday. "But I've said all along, I'd always been proud to be around the team. (International play) was a different game, even if all the players were from the NHL."

Habscheid led a patchwork Canadian team to a record of 10-5-1 in international tournaments this year. The former NHL forward, who won silver with the junior nats in 2003, says he has devised some crash courses in conditioning for locked out players, who'll join the main body of NHLers who have played in Europe all year.

A workable roster should be released in a week or two, with no planned cuts. Exhibition games will be scheduled in Canada and Europe, with an eye to the tourney opener on April 30 against Latvia.

Tambellini was GM of Canada's 2003 world championship team, which is going for three-peat gold in Vienna. He received Gretzky's endorsement, the Great One excusing himself to be with his mom Phyllis during her treatment for lung cancer.

"You'll still see Wayne's fingerprints on this team," Nicholson said.

Tambellini mentioned Euro-Canucks such as Joe Thornton, Martin St. Louis, Daniel Briere and Brendan Morrison as those under consideration for selection. But he added there would be room for "two-and-a-half teams" when idle players such as Jarome Iginla are counted.

After yesterday's conference call, he and assistant GM Ken Holland planned to get back to many players who called this month asking for tryouts.

"No one is committed to playoffs, players are fresh ... it's a good opportunity to put together one of our best teams," Tambellini said.

WINTER OLYMPICS

Quinn realizes that Habscheid could well end up coaching Canada in Turin, Italy, next year at the Olympics, especially with the lockout limiting or preventing NHL involvement there. Nicholson described next month in Vienna, Austria as "an evaluation" for Turin.

"Would I like to (coach in Turin)? Yes, but they have their own decisions to make," Quinn said.

Quinn's former Olympic and World Cup assistants, Jacques Martin and Ken Hitchcock, might not return, either, as new coaching blood is assessed.

"This group has marched with one voice, with no egos and that's the way it will continue to be," said Tambellini, said of the leadership issue.


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