(Reuters) – Claude Julien was named head coach of the Canada men’s ice hockey team for the Beijing Winter Games on Friday as Hockey Canada scrambles to rebuild a squad after the National Hockey League withdrew from the Olympics over COVID-19 issues.
The 61-year-old, a former NHL coach of the year and Stanley Cup winner, takes over from Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jon Cooper, who was picked to lead the Canadian squad until the NHL decided in December it would not send players due to major disruptions in the schedule created by a surge in COVID-19 cases.
With more than 100 postponed games, the NHL will use the Olympic window to clear up the backlog.
“We are excited to announce our experienced management group and coaching staff that will lead Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team at the 2022 Olympics,” said Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada in a statement.
“With less than a month until the men’s tournament gets underway at the Olympics, we are excited to continue working with the entire staff as it prepares to represent Canada and build a roster that Canadians can support as it looks to bring home an Olympic gold medal.”
Shane Doan, who was a member of Team Canada at the 2006 Turin Olympics and six world championship squads, has taken over general manager duties.
Doan faces the immediate challenge of cobbling together a team from European and minor leagues after the NHL withdrawal.
The United States, who also expected to have a roster packed with NHL all-stars, announced their Beijing team on Thursday which was stocked largely with college players.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)