Three-hundred-and-sixty-six days away from the start of the 2022 Olympic
Winter Games, the management group for Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team is off
and running on the road to Beijing.
Doug Armstrong will take the reins as general manager, leading a group that
includes associate general manager Ken Holland, assistant general managers
Ron Francis, Roberto Luongo and Don Sweeney and Hockey Canada senior
vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond.
It’ll be the third Olympic tour for Armstrong, who served under Steve
Yzerman as part of Canada’s gold medal-winning entries in 2010 and 2014.
“It's a great honour any time you can work with Hockey Canada,” Armstrong
says. “Being at the last two Olympics that the NHL participated in made my
eyes wide open to what we're getting into here, but missing it in 2018
[when NHL players did not participate] has only given a hunger back to
The group he will work with is an eclectic one.
Holland, president of hockey operations and general manager of the Edmonton
Oilers, is a management veteran who, like Armstrong, returns for a third
Francis, general manager of the expansion Seattle Kraken, and Sweeney, who
holds the same position with the Boston Bruins, are new to the Olympic
journey but have plenty of experience building successful teams in the
National Hockey League.
Salmond has his finger on the pulse of Canadian hockey, having worked with
most, of not all, of Canada’s Olympic hopefuls through his experiences at
past Games, the IIHF World Championship and IIHF World Junior Championship.
And then there’s Luongo, a special advisor with the Florida Panthers who is
a familiar face to Canadian hockey fans; the goaltender played in three
Olympics, winning gold in his final two appearances in 2010 and 2014.
“I think it's important to have someone that had been there, done that the
last three times the NHL has gone to the Olympics,” Armstrong says of
Luongo. “He understands what goes into today's NHL players. Obviously his
experience in goal is going to help us pick the right participants in that
area, but his overall experience with the Olympics and in the NHL [is
important]. I think he's going to be a great asset to this group.”
With management in place, attention turns to player evaluation. There have
already been preliminary meetings, and with the 2020-21 NHL season
underway, albeit in a unique alignment, the scouting process has begun.
“What we've tried to do is slot each management person with one division,”
Armstrong says. “Kenny has the North, I have the West, Roberto has the
South and Donnie has the East. So it works well for that. And then Ronnie
with his job, having to prepare an expansion franchise, he has to watch all
the different teams. So I think we have our bases covered.
“We're [meeting] virtually, which is a new task for all of us, but no
different than any other country. It's a different challenge, and we're
working and meeting once every three or four weeks to discuss what we're
seeing and try and whittle our group down to a shorter list.”
The next major decision for Armstrong is which coaches will lead Canada
behind the bench, an announcement he doesn’t expect to make until the
While he won’t divulge any of the names on his short list, he says he knows
exactly what he wants from his staff.
“It's like when you're picking players,” Armstrong says. “We're not picking
an all-star team, we're trying to pick a team. So we're going to try to
pick coaches that that can work together, that have synergy with each
other, [and] that can check all the boxes to prepare the team to play.”
As for the roster itself, the general manager expects a little bit of
turnover from the last few best-on-best international competitions as the
next generation plays its way into the conversation.
That doesn’t mean the current crop of stars who have kept the Maple Leaf
atop the hockey world for the last decade (since 2010, Canada has won two
Olympic gold medals, two world titles and a World Cup) aren’t on the radar,
but it means the competition for the 25 roster spots is wide open.
“There are some great young players out there that have never been on [a]
stage [like the Olympics],” Armstrong says. “So there are going to be a lot
of fresh faces. The game has evolved. The game has changed. We want to put
a group together that is most importantly a team, but it's going to be a
fast, skill-based team.”