Canada has added some hometown content for next month’s IIHF world hockey championship in Halifax.
Dartmouth’s Mike Johnston was named an assistant coach along with NHL veterans Pat Burns and Craig MacTavish yesterday, as Canada finalized the bench staff that will work with head coach Ken Hitchcock at the Metro Centre.
Johnston, an associate coach with the Los Angeles Kings, is no stranger to Team Canada, as this marks his seventh world championship and second in as many years. He helped the team to a gold medal last year in Moscow.
“It’s my first time in Canada, and for me, it’s home, where I grew up, and it’s special,” Johnston said via cellphone after wrapping up his season-ending exit meetings with the Kings. “I never expected to be asked, but I was hoping I would have an opportunity. When (general manager) Steve (Yzerman) called, I was thrilled. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 50-year-old has won gold as an assistant twice at the world championship and twice at the world junior.
Hitchcock said that having Johnston back from last year’s team is important for “continuity.” He added that Johnston will handle pre-scouting duties given his familiarity with the event.
“He knows a lot about the coaching styles (from last year) and a lot of the same (coaching staffs) are back running the programs,” Hitchcock said. “In the past few days, he’s gotten pre-information to me that I hadn’t even thought of.”
Burns isn’t behind an NHL bench at this time but is a three-time Jack Adams award winner as the league’s coach of the year. MacTavish is head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Yzerman said yesterday that the first group of players will be named today and that six spots will be left open for players from teams that are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.