Nonis will lead Canada
Blake, Murray, Pascall also involved
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis poses for the media after being formally announced as Team Canada's general manager for the upcoming world hockey championships at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto on March 17, 2011. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - He never wore it in the heat of battle, but Dave Nonis still has the Team Canada jersey he was issued for a tryout in 1988.
Almost a quarter century later, the Maple Leafs’ senior vice-president of hockey operations finally is getting the chance to represent his country.
On Thursday, Nonis officially was named as the general manager of Canada’s entry at the world championship next month in Slovakia.
“I never used it to play in a game but it was such a proud moment,” Nonis said of that jersey he plans to give to his son. “It leaves a pretty special place in your heart.”
Nonis will be joined by former NHLer and five-time world championship participant Rob Blake, Anaheim general manager Bob Murray and Hockey Canada’s Brad Pascall on the management team for the tournament that begins on April 29.
One of Nonis’ opponents will be his boss with the Leafs, general manager Brian Burke, who is expected to be announced as part of the Team USA executive.
Though the Team Canada brass has identified a number of potential players, the wild NHL playoff races in both conferences has made any list necessary to be done in pencil.
“You have to tread very lightly,” Nonis said when asked how and when the team will be constructed. “When I was manager in Vancouver, there were certain countries that approached players directly when we were in the middle of a playoff race and I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to do.
“We won’t be approaching any staff members or players until they are eliminated.”
At that point, Blake’s expertise will be called upon both in terms of logistics but in helping convince younger players that the worlds are a worthwhile venture.
Blake said the international experience he gained early on helped him both in his NHL career and eventually as an Olympian.
“First and foremost, playing for Canada,” Blake said of the thrust of his sales pitch. “That for me was always a selling point. Then there is playing with other players and management and seeing how things are done in other places in the league. I think that helps you grow as a player.”
For Leafs fans worried that Nonis is abandoning ship on his team’s playoff race, don’t get your replica Wendel Clark jerseys in a knot.
“It’s not an issue,” Nonis said. “If I felt the Leafs were being short-changed, first of all I wouldn’t do it and second of all I would hope they wouldn’t approve it and bless it.
“(Burke) has always been a big supporter of international experience and he’s been involved with the U.S. team. He thought it was a great opportunity.”
Nonis takes over following one of Canada’s worst showings at the worlds — a seventh-place result last year in Germany.