Gretzky passes on job

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

It won't be Gretzky's gang.

Still, the squad gunning for a third straight world championship gold will be guided by part of the Great One's crew.

With Wayne Gretzky opting out due to his mother's battle with lung cancer, Steve Tambellini has been handed the GM reins for Canada's entry at the tournament in Austria, April 30 to May 15.

Ken Holland will serve as Team Canada's assistant GM and national men's team head coach Marc Habscheid will serve as bench boss.

Although Gretzky has had the golden touch since becoming involved in a management capacity for Hockey Canada, Tambellini has played a signicficant role in that success.

The assistant GM for the Vancouver Canucks was part of the management group for the gold medal-winning Olympic team in 2002 and the victorious World Cup squad of 2004.

He was also GM of 2003's gold medal-winning world championship team. Plus, Tambellini pointed out, Gretzky is just a phone call away.

"No one has given more to Hockey Canada than what Wayne Gretzky has done over the past numerous years," Tambellini said yesterday.

"The fact he's not directly involved in this tournament does not limit Wayne's participation or opinions. He'll always be there. He'll be part of this process."

Through a statement, Gretzky said he wouldn't be able to provide all the effort needed and that's why he pulled out.

"I'm disappointed that I can't be involved with Team Canada at this year's world championship due to the personal situation surrounding my mother's illness," he said.

"Team Canada is in good hands going to Austria."

Should be on the ice, too.

Most years, it can be an uphill climb to entice players to go overseas after a long season. Due to the NHL lockout, there is a plethora of talent available for Habscheid to send over the boards.

"The World Cup roster was pretty good. It'd be nice to have that team," he said.

Still there is the potential players -- many of whom haven't been playing regularly all these months -- may turn down invitations.

"It's hard to say. We don't want to guess and we hope all our players will accept the invitation but we don't know," Habscheid said.

"We know guys love playing for their country and love playing for Canada and that's a huge draw."

Mario Lemieux has already said he won't play but Tambellini believes he'll cobble together a squad with the potential to three-peat.

"We have a fairly good idea of where we want to start. Anybody can look at the last two teams we've put together and get a pretty good idea," he said.

"We'll take a look, start talking to players immediately."

To help players prepare, especially those who didn't go to Europe this winter, there are plans to hold a training camp in Calgary and a couple of exhibition games.

Tambellini said he hopes to name a roster within the week. "I'd like to get something that's close, maybe by the end of the week," he said.


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